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Language and Perception

Final Report Summary - LANPERCEPT (Language and Perception)

As humans, we rely on the interaction between vision, hearing, motor and spatial systems to make sense out of the surrounding world, to navigate in that world and to make efficient decisions in pursuing our goals. Language interacts richly with all of these systems. This training network provided a unique approach to understanding the interaction between two central cognitive systems: language and perception. Traditionally these systems are studied independently, with training provided from a single disciplinary perspective.
The Marie Curie ITN Language and Perception (LanPercept) project has examined the mapping between language and perception across the lifespan (in children, older adults), and in healthy and clinical populations (e.g. autism, dementia, deafness). This network has utilised for the first time, an interdisciplinary approach to the examination of the bidirectional relationships between language and perception, and bridging the translational gap between basic and applied research, both in clinical settings and in industry. It has provided training for the next generation of language and perception researchers, equipping them with the cutting-edge interdisciplinary research skills needed to understand how these two complex systems interact.
Ten partners from academia and industry, and five associated partners have provided a multi-national and interdisciplinary training infrastructure, designed to equip participating fellows with the necessary knowledge and sets of tools to pursue successful careers. This initiative has bridged research in the social sciences (psychology, cognitive science), linguistics and psycholinguistics, research in developmental deficits, and the development of advanced research technologies.
The LanPercept ITN has achieved its most important milestone to provide interdisciplinary training for 11 Early Stage Researchers (ESRs) and 4 Experienced Researchers (ERs) across 10 training sites in academia (Norwegian University of science & Technology, University of East Anglia, Aston University, Erasmus University Rotterdam, University of Bielefeld, Saarland University, University of Seville, University of Southern Denmark) and two private sector partners (Tobii Technology, Sweden and FIVAN, Spain). Through 11 training events hosted by the partners and secondments, the fellows have all acquired valuable new research and transferable skills which have skilled them up for successful careers in both academia and the private sector. A major impact of the project is the high number of ITN fellows (over 50% - 5 ESRs and 3 ERs) who have already been hired by European Universities and are pursuing new avenues of research.
An important aspect of the fellows’ training has been research conducted in their individual projects, ranging from the role of visual attention on language comprehension to the correlation between verbal and visuospatial abilities in typical and atypical ageing, role of visual context in language comprehension in autism, and the development of experimental paradigms using gaze contingency in psycholinguistic research, as well as new methodologies for rehabilitation of stroke patients. This research has resulted in the publication of over 15 papers in high impact journals in the field and over 20 in preparation. This research has featured consistently in the public domain and the media (with over 30 popular features on the individual project topics). The LanPercept fellows have earned prestigious research awards (Harm Brouwer - The 2015 Robert J. Glushko Prize for outstanding dissertations in cognitive science; Dorota Smith – Best Research Poster of the Basic and Allied Neuroscience Research Group at the LHS Postgraduate Research Day).
All the ESRs have enrolled with the respective PhD Programmes, with 2 who have successfully defended, and the remaining in the process of completing and submitting their theses. Cooperation in the project has resulted in high synergy between the sites producing novel research constellations, which is reflected in co-authorship of the published papers. The ITN has also produced the first co-tutelle agreement between NTNU and the University of Seville, thus setting up favourable conditions for alignment and co-operation in higher education and training. Experience from the highly interdisciplinary training offered in the network was presented by the ITN coordinator, Prof. Mila Vulchanova at the Future of the European Doctorate Conference organized by the European Commission in Riga, Latvia in 2015.
The ITN organized 3 international Conferences open to the wider research community. The three events, Cognition and Language Developmental Disorders (Seville, 2013), Embodied and Situated Language Processing (ESLP 2014) (Rotterdam) and The Language and Perception Conference (Trondheim, 2016) were well attended and featured leading international experts in the field as keynote speakers (Marta Kutas, Gerry Altmann, Lawrence Barsalou, Michael Tannenhaus, among others).
LanPercept is unique in having provided, on the one hand, synergies among experienced researchers from academia and the private sector, and a broad choice of valuable training opportunities for early stage fellows, on the other. The project attracted a lot of international interest and attention already in its initial stage, seen in the number of inquiries and the large pool of applicants during the recruitment of Early Stage Researchers, and overwhelming interest and attendance at the events organized by the ITN. Research conducted in the individual projects has already been published and has received both hugely positive response from the research community, as well as scientific acclaim.