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.
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 >
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 >
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 >
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 >
We share our thoughts with other minds, but we do not understand how. Having a common language certainly helps, but infants’ and tourists’ communicative success clearly illustrates that sharing thoughts does not require signals...continue >
How do object perception and action interact at a neural level? Here we test the hypothesis that perceptual features, processed by the ventral visuoperceptual stream, are used as priors by the dorsal visuomotor stream...continue >
The great promise of comparative neuroscience is to understand why brains differ by investigating the relations between variations in the organization of different brains, their evolutionary history, and their current ecological niche. For this...continue >
We compared the course and cortical projec- tions of white matter fibers passing through the extreme capsule in humans and macaques. Previous comparisons of this tract have suggested a uniquely human posterior pro- jection,...continue >
Correlations in brain activity between two areas (functional connectivity) have been shown to relate to their underlying structural connections. We examine the possibility that functional connectivity also reflects short-term changes in synaptic efficacy. We...continue >
How can we understand each other during communicative inter- actions? An influential suggestion holds that communicators are primed by each other’s behaviors, with associative mechanisms au- tomatically coordinating the production of communicative signals and...continue >