Prof Pulvermüller's ERC project “MatCo – Material Constraints Enabling Human Cognition” will focus on neural modelling with brain constrained networks. It will use novel insights from human neurobiology translated into mathematically exact computational models to find new answers to long-standing questions in cognitive science, linguistics and philosophy. Models replicating structural differences between human and non-human primate brains will help delineate mechanisms underlying specifically human cognitive capacities. Key experiments will validate critical model predictions and new neurophysiological data will be applied to further improve the biologically-constrained networks.
This novel research pathway offers biologically well-founded and computationally precise perspectives on addressing exciting hitherto unanswered fundamental questions, such as the following: How can humans build vocabularies of tens and hundreds of thousands of words, whereas our closest evolutionary relatives typically use below 100? How is semantic meaning implemented for gestures and words, and, more specifically, for referential and categorical terms? How can grounding and interpretability of abstract symbols be anchored biologically? Which features of connectivity between nerve cells are crucial for the formation of discrete representations and categorical combination? Would modelling of cognitive functions using brain-constrained networks allow for better predictions on brain activity indexing the processing of signs and their meaning?