This research programme aims at understanding the neural mechanisms underlying the manipulation of meaning in the human brain. Throughout this interdisciplinary research programme four complementary research streams will run in parallel: (a) a developmental stream investigating the characteristics of semantic memory development in infants aged 12 to 36 months; (b) a bilingual stream addressing subtle differences in semantic conceptualisation resulting from the handling of different languages by one brain; (c) a nonverbal stream exploring the capacity of the human brain to process complex meaningful information that is not coded in words; and (d) an unconscious stream targeting the processing of meaning triggered by perceptually distorted stimuli processed outside of awareness. As the research programme unfolds, aspects of verbal and nonverbal semantic development in the infant will be compared to second language semantics and to nonverbal processing in the adult. Similarly, differences found between conscious and unconscious aspects of semantic processing will provide an interpretational basis for results obtained in the other three streams. At the end of this research programme an overall synthesis of data collected in the different streams will make it possible to characterize cognitive factors affecting semantic development in early and later life, which can be expected to lead to a completely novel conception of the human semantic system. The series of experiments planned and those generated in the course of this project will enable the research team to establish international leadership in the emerging field of neurosemantics.
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