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COnversational BRAins

Project description

The language of our brains

Language sciences are moving away from individually-administered protocols towards the characterisation of how spoken language is jointly used by two or more talkers as a shared set of resources for interacting with each other. The EU-funded COBRA project will train the next generation of researchers to accurately characterise and model the linguistic and cognitive brain mechanisms that allow conversation to unfold in both human-human and human-machine interactions. The first challenge will be to determine how alignment and prediction may both rely on and contribute to setting up brain-to-brain coupling relationships. The second will relate to the development of computational models of alignment and prediction for more socially-acceptable text-to-speech synthesisers, human-machine dialogue systems, and social robots.


COBRA aims to train the next generation of researchers to accurately characterize and model the linguistic, cognitive and brain mechanisms deployed by human speakers in conversational interactions with human interlocutors as well as artificial dialog systems. It relies on a cross-sectoral international network of 11 world-level academic research centers and 4 non-academic partners with 3 fast-developing SMEs and 1 world-level company. The partners' unique combined expertise and high complementarity will allow COBRA to offer 15 ESRs an excellent training programme as well as strong exposure to the non-academic sector in the emerging field of conversational brains. Training will cover scientific and technical skills, from the joint monitoring of brain and physiological activities in two or more people talking to each other to making multi-language databases, resources and findings available in open access, as well as transferable skills. The ESRs will conduct experimental and corpus studies on the alignment and prediction processes that make conversation between people both easy and fluent, across a large variety of communicational settings and in different languages, to better understand how these processes contribute to setting up brain-to-brain coupling relationships. Collaborative work with non-academic partners will foster the development of more effective and socially acceptable text-to-speech synthesizers, artificial dialogue systems, and social humanoid robots with high-level conversational skills. The project will open new career perspectives for ESRs with interdisciplinary training in language sciences, neuroscience and dialog systems on a very fast-growing digital market. COBRA’s training programme will also have major societal implications as it will concern aspects of the European citizens’ everyday life, from spoken interactions with machines to conversing in a non-native language.


Net EU contribution
€ 549 604,08
13284 Marseille

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Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur Bouches-du-Rhône
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 549 604,08

Participants (8)