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25-10-2019 | © Istock 3 mins read

Are we curious by choice or by chance?

The human brain is outstanding among mammalian brains, containing around 100 billion neurons (more than the number of stars in the Milky Way) and over 100 trillion connections between them. Yet, when it comes to making decisions, this impressive organ does not prevent us from making errors – even avoidable ones.

12-06-2019 | © picture 3 mins read

ERC research lends an ear to the voices heard by schizophrenia patients

The ERC-funded ONOFF project is building upon previous efforts to better understand auditory hallucinations (AH) in patients with schizophrenia. Its results could lead to new cognitive and pharmacological treatments.

16-11-2017 | Portrait: ©EPFL,Hillary Sanctuary - Research picture: ©EPFL,Alain Herzog 2 mins read

Could personalised neuroprosthetics make paralysed patients walk again?

Prof. Gregoire Courtine believes paralysed patients will be able to walk again. This belief has represented the focus of years of work aimed at regenerating the functions of the spinal cord after injury. Thanks to his ERC funding in both 2010 and 2015, Prof. Courtine and his team have been able to develop so-called “personalised neuroprosthetics” that have led immobile rats, and more recently monkeys, to overcome their paralysis.

15-05-2017 | © picture 2 mins read

Socialising with Artificial Agents

A number of factors have played an important role in the evolutionary success of the human species. One of the undeniably fundamental factors has been our inherent ability to communicate. This capacity to perceive, respond to and coordinate behaviour with others has not only allowed us to survive, but also to thrive. The ERC-funded project SOCIAL ROBOTS headed by Prof. Emily Cross is aiming to gain a deeper understanding of the intricacies of how we comprehend and coordinate our actions with other people and with robots to achieve mutual goals.

28-04-2017 | © picture 3 mins read

New migrants, new workers: how do economies adapt?

The impact of migration on the economies of receiving countries is a fundamental question in economics. According to Prof. Christian Dustmann, current research is coming to different conclusions about the impact immigration has on wages and employment of native workers.

30-03-2017 | © picture 2 mins read

Together, we can achieve a lot

Ole Kamstrup, MD., MSc., is a pensioner and lives north of Copenhagen in Denmark. He has been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease ten years ago. Since 2013, Mr Kamstrup has been in contact with Professor Deniz Kirik, a neuroscientist at Lund University in Sweden. Professor Kirik, who was awarded an ERC Starting Grant in 2009, develops new therapies for Parkinson’s disease, using viral vectors to deliver therapeutic genes to the brain. An ERC Proof of Concept grant enabled him to start carrying out a market evaluation and writing a business plan for the promising therapy.

Originally published in March 2017 as part of the multimedia campaign "ERC - 10 years – 10 portraits."

20-09-2016 | Image© iStockphoto 3 mins read

New understanding of how Alzheimer’s develops

By focusing on certain actions and reactions within the brain, an EU-funded project has advanced understanding of how Alzheimer’s Disease develops. This could potentially open the door to a new era of targeted treatments.

27-07-2016 | © picture 2 mins read

The cognitive art of team sports

While on court, beach volleyball players need to act as a whole in order to prevent the ball from touching the sand: in a fraction of a second - just before the opponent's hand spikes the ball - the passer has to predict and adjust to the attacker's action as well as to their teammate's block position. Thanks to her Consolidator Grant, cognitive science professor Natalie Sebanz is studying the cognitive and psychological mechanisms underlying joint action expertise – in other words, how individuals learn skilled actions, such as those performed by professional athletes, together.

18-07-2016 | Image: ULB — CRCN Portrait: © F.R.S.-FNRS — Jean-Michel BYL 2 mins read

Consciousness: is this what separates us from machines?

While computers can calculate or recognise faces, they are not aware of themselves (yet?). Consciousness is in the essence of human beings; its nature, however, appears to lack a reliable explanation. Prof. Axel Cleeremans is developing a new theory, the Radical Plasticity Thesis, maintaining that consciousness is a long-lasting property of our brain rather than just a static feature. In order to test it, he is taking a multidisciplinary approach including psychological studies and advanced brain imaging.

25-05-2016 | © picture 2 mins read

Building a career on understanding the minds of others

The Theory of Mind - the ability to understand that others may have thoughts, beliefs, desires, and intentions different from ours - develops in early childhood and is considered as a key process to explain our social interactions. How do children acquire this ability? What are the cognitive and brain mechanisms that allow human beings to learn from others, to predict their behaviour and to communicate with them? These are some of the questions Dr Agnes Melinda Kovacs addresses, thanks to an ERC grant, in her laboratory in Budapest.