Radboud Science Awards for research into language and senses, nasal septum correction, and tolerance in the Middle East

Date of news: 23 June 2020

How does your language influence the association between vowels and colours? How does quality of life change after correcting a deviated septum through septoplasty? And does religion contribute to tolerance or actually hold it back?

These questions are the themes of three eminent research groups at Radboud University and Radboud university medical center who won the 11th edition of the Radboud Science Awards. During a festive ceremony on Wednesday 16 September 2020, they will receive their awards, after which they will present a mini-lecture to primary school students.

Vowels and Colours

team_taal zintuigenDoes the “ee” sound make you think of brighter colours than the “oo” sound? You wouldn’t be the only one! Linguist Dr Mark Dingemanse and neurobiologist Dr Tessa van Leeuwen demonstrated that a language-dependent system influences the associations we make between sound and colour. This type of simultaneous stimulation, in which one sensory observation also provokes another, is called synaesthesia. They also discovered over 200 synaesthetes who see colours for sounds, and introduced a new measuring method to the field, which can be broadly applied to all forms of synaesthesia. In a follow-up study, the duo discovered similarities between synaesthesia and autism in the area of sensory perception.

Necessity of Correcting the Nasal Septum

Correcting the septum improves the passageway in the nose to remedy complaints such as a stuffy nose and headaches. Although it is the most common ENT surgical procedure for adults, evidence for its effectiveness was lacking until recently. Prof. Maroeska Rovers, Dr Machteld van Egmond, and Dr Niels van Heerbeek were the first to research the general effectiveness as well as the cost-effectiveness of this treatment. They discovered that patients who underwent a septum correction experienced improved nasal passage function and a higher quality of life than the patients who were treated without surgical intervention, and that this treatment was also cost-effective. Their findings resulted in the start of a nationwide guideline for ENT physicians.team_septumcorrectie

Tolerance in the Middle East

tolerantie MO_niels spieringsWith his work, Dr Niels Spierings presents a breakthrough in the research on the influence of Islam on tolerance. His work on the Middle East and North Africa distinguishes between different dimensions of the Islamic religiosity, and also theorises and analyses how the influence of those dimensions differ across the countries in that region. It shows that people who attend mosques are more often less tolerant of people of other religions, especially in the few countries where an Islamist government regulates the sermons. Additionally, Muslims who feel more religious are more tolerant in general, and those who take the Quran literally are more tolerant too, unless orthodox Muslims are oppressed. The confluence of nuance and generalisability in this study forces a crucial breakthrough in the debate about the influence of Islam.

Science Education Programme

By winning the Radboud Science Awards, researchers take part in an annual education programme from the Science Education Hub Radboud University (WKRU). In a collaboration with teachers, they have the opportunity to adapt their research for use in primary education. Each year, the projects of the Radboud Science Teams are published in the book series “Wetenschappelijke doorbraken de klas in!” (scientific breakthroughs for the classroom). Teachers can use these to conduct science education activities in the classroom themselves.

The award ceremony will be held in the Aula at Radboud University. The event will be streamed live online to the public, and there is limited space for audience and media in the hall. Starts at 9.30 a.m. and ends at 11.00 a.m. The stream can be viewed for free during that time.

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