Universiteit Leiden

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Leiden delves into the mystery of the brain and language

The Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition (LIBC) is concentrating increasingly on research into the role of the brain in language development. The institute has now set up the LIBC Language website that brings together all the information on this research.


Resolving problems with speaking and reading language: this is a puzzle that has occupied researchers for more than two centuries. That the brain plays a key role in these problems is by now well known. But what exactly this role is and how we can use this knowledge to develop treatments, is still a mystery. It comes as no surprise, then, that the LIBC decided to initiate a number of studies that focus on these issues.


The breadth of this research is impressive. From learning a language to hearing it, reading aloud and stuttering, from aphasia to multilingualism: these are just a few of the areas the LIBC is investigating.  The information gleaned by the research is available on the institute's English-language website.

Professor Niels Schiller, Professor of Psycho- and Neurolinguistics, mentions a few of the 'pearls' of the site: 'Take, for example, the research carried out by PhD candidate  Kalinka Timmers. She is studying the role of multilingualism in reading aloud, and has found evidence for the hypothesis that several languages can be active in the brain simultaneously. And PhD researcher Zij Jurriaan Witteman has carried out research over the past few years into differences in the activities of the two hemispheres the brain while the brain processes 'emotional information' from a sentence. When a person speaks to you, you hear by the melody and speed of the utterance whether the speaker is angry.  The sound differences also tell us whether a person is giving us information or asking a question. Witteman's research demonstrates that other areas of the brain are active when we are listening to emotional information than when the content of a sentence is analysed.'

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