I ASK A SIMPLE QUESTION:
"WHAT MAKES US HUMAN?"

There might not be a simple answer, but I'll try to do my part.
We propose that many characteristic functions of the human mind, from logical reasoning to managing complex social lives and from tool-use to language, are supported by a basic yet powerful faculty: instant conceptual inference.
Think about how quickly we can learn to understand a sentence such as "That wackadoo takes selfies everywhere" even though this combination of letters has no direct link to the fanatical Facebook and smartphone user it refers to. Where humans excel, apes and monkeys struggle to learn such high-order conceptual relationships. They need hundreds of repetitions before they get it. However... Interestingly, all primates can learn relationships of similar complexity, but of a physical instead of conceptual nature, very efficiently.
By carefully comparing the anatomy of the monkey, ape, and human brain we're testing whether the human capacity of instant conceptual inference relies on novel, perhaps uniquely human, connections between existing brain regions shared across primates.
instant conceptual inference
instant conceptual inference
Our human cognitive skills trump those of our primate relatives in many domains, ranging from logical reasoning to managing complex social lives and from tool-use to language. A basic yet powerful faculty might underlie many of these characteristic functions of the human mind: instant conceptual inference.
continue >
comparative neuroanatomy
comparative neuroanatomy
The evolutionary emergence of our human ability to quickly infer upon conceptual relationships likely relies on the relative re-organization of large-scale connections in the human brain compared to those in other primates since our last common ancestor.
continue >
communicative actions
communicative actions
I am interested in how we plan and execute social and communicative actions, for example pointing out an object to someone else. This seems like such a simple mundane task that it might be hard to see why it is so fascinating to study.
continue >
conceptual-motor interactions
conceptual-motor interactions
In my scientific career I have been continuously fascinated by the interaction between conceptual and motoric faculties of our brain and how they together support uniquely human behaviour.
continue >
neuroimaging

functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)

connectivity

diffusion magnetic resonance (dMRI) tractography and resting-state fMRI

electrophysiology

electro- (EEG) and magneto- (MEG) encephalography

neurostimulation

transcranial magnetic (TMS), electric (TCS), and ultrasound (FUN) stimulation

computational modelling

behavioural, cognitive, and neural models of action, communication, and learning

behaviour

motion analysis of grasping and pointing

MrCat

Magnetic Resonance Comparative Anatomy Toolbox

HCP pipelines

Human Connectome Project - Structural Analysis Pipeline

kinemagic

Motion Analysis Toolbox

EEG-TMS

FieldTrip extension for concurrent EEG-TMS analysis

LENNART VERHAGEN

University of Oxford
Department of Experimental Psychology

9 South Parks Road
Oxford OX1 3UD
United Kingdom

CONTACT

×
Thank you for your message! We will answer you as soon as possible.