Cendra Agulhon

Other Organizers

Laurianne Cabrera
Louise Kirsch



Conference room R229
Campus Saint Germain des Prés de l'Université de Paris, 45 rue des Saints Pères, Paris 6e


03 Jul 2023


11 h 00 min - 12 h 00 min


INCC Seminar Series

The listening and speaking brain, by Peter Hagoort

The listening and speaking brain

The infrastructure of the human brain allows us to acquire a language without formal instruction in the first years of life. I will discuss the features that make our brain language-ready. Next to the neuro-architectural features I will discuss the functional aspects of language processing. A central and influential idea among researchers of language is that our language faculty is organised according to Fregean compositionality, which implies that the meaning of an utterance is a function of the meaning of its parts and of the syntactic rules by which these parts are combined. FMRI results and results from recordings of event related brain potentials will be presented that are inconsistent with this classical model of language interpretation. Our data support a model in which knowledge about the context and the world, knowledge about concomitant information from other modalities, and knowledge about the speaker are brought to bear immediately, by the same fast-acting brain system that combines the meanings of individual words into a message-level representation. The Memory, Unification and Control (MUC) model of language accounts for these data. Resting state connectivity data, and data from a large MEG study (N=204 participants) will be discussed, specifying the contributions of temporal and inferior frontal cortex. I will also discuss fMRI results that indicate the insufficiency of the Mirror Neuron Hypothesis to explain language understanding. Instead, understanding the message that the speaker wants to convey requires the contribution of the Theory of Mind network. I will sketch a picture of language processing from an embrained perspective. Overall, I will argue that a multiple network perspective is needed to account for the neurobiological underpinning of language to its full extent. Finally I will illustrate why it is hard to give a good presentation.

Short Biography
Peter Hagoort is director of the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics (since November 2006), and the founding director of the Donders Institute, Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging (DCCN, 1999), a cognitive neuroscience research centre at the Radboud University Nijmegen. In addition, he is professor in cognitive neuroscience at the Radboud University Nijmegen. His own research interests relate to the domain of the human language faculty and how it is instantiated in the brain. In his research he applies neuroimaging techniques such as ERP, MEG, PET and fMRI to investigate the language system and its impairments as in aphasia, dyslexia and autism.
For his scientific contributions, the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts Sciences (KNAW) awarded him with the Hendrik Mullerprijs in 2003. In 2004 he was awarded by the Dutch Queen with the “Knighthood of the Dutch Lion”. In 2005 he received the NWO-Spinoza Prize (M€ 1.5). In 2007 the University of Glasgow awarded him with an honorary doctorate in science for his contributions to the cognitive neuroscience of language. In 2008 he was awarded with the Heymans Prize. In 2012 the KNAW awarded his career contribution to the cognitive neuroscience with the Academy Professorship Prize (M€ 1.0).
Peter Hagoort is member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), of The Koninklijke Hollandsche Maatschappij der Wetenschappen, and of the Academia Europaea. In 2018 Peter Hagoort was elected as international member of the National Academy of Sciences and as Fellow of the Cognitive Science Society.
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