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22-07-2016 | Research picture: © Ivilin Stoianov, Marco Zorzi

Self-learning AI emulates the human brain

European researchers have designed brain-like artificial neural networks capable of numerical and spatial cognition and written language processing without any explicit training or pre-programming. Their work, based on the machine-learning approach of generative models, significantly advances the development of self-learning artificial intelligence, while also deepening understanding of human cognition.

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

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

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.

10-05-2016 | © picture

Three habitable Earth-like planets observed by ERC grantee

A team of researchers, led by ERC grantee Michaël Gillon, has discovered three potentially habitable planets that orbit an ultra-cool dwarf star, no further away than 40 light years from Earth.

04-05-2016 | Portrait picture: ©NWO/Ivar Pel - Research picture: Courtesy of EATINGBODIES team

What is eating?

Living creatures relate to their surroundings in all kinds of ways. One of these is by eating from them and excreting into them. But what is eating? Incorporating other creatures or absorbing nutrients? A need of individual bodies or a pleasure that table companions share? The ERC project EATINGBODIES has explored such questions by studying various forms of eating. 

02-05-2016 | © picture

What does aspirin do to you?

Acetylsalicylic acid, most commonly known as aspirin, was already part of the Egyptian pharmacopeia, used also in ancient Greece and in the Middle Ages to break fevers. Taken all over the world to kill pain and reduce inflammation, today aspirin helps to prevent heart attacks, strokes and blood clots. Its emerging role in preventing and treating cancer is on the rise too. But how does this drug act on your blood cells? ERC grantee Prof Valerie O’Donnell works on the answer.

02-05-2016 | Research picture: Melting Andean glaciers: view from water reservoir in Chivay (Peru), where water is precious and scarce. ©Astrid Stensrud

Addressing the crises of an ‘overheated’ world

Different responses might be given to global challenges. For example, how should the vanishing of a glacier be tackled? Prof. Thomas Eriksen aims to understand the economic, environmental and cultural transitions the world is going through and the responses created by local communities in order to offer valuable advice to our policymakers and leaders.

02-05-2016 | Research picture: Graffito on a private wall, Janjanbureh Island © Alice Bellagamba

The past and present of slavery: a history in the making

Slavery represents a dark and unclosed page in the history of mankind. Even if legally abolished by all countries of the world, its legacies shape the present in a plurality of ways and often overlap with the phenomena that scholars, activists and policy-makers target as new slaveries. Which are the consequences of slavery after its legal death? Should new forms of labor exploitation and human bondage also be read in this key? Or are they the result of recent economic, political and social transformations?

29-04-2016 | Cover: © Nature/Marta Mirazon Lahr

Discovery in Kenya sheds light on the origins of warfare

A ground-breaking anthropological discovery took place in East Africa, where ERC Advanced grantee Dr Marta Mirazón Lahr and her team have been studying human origins. At the excavation site in Nataruk in northern Kenya, they have stumbled upon a real archaeological rarity – the earliest historical evidence of warfare.

01-04-2016 | Picture copyright: Ellen Wuibaux ©Council of Europe

Human rights under pressure

Since its establishment in 1959, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has delivered more than 10,000 judgments. Verdicts are rendered on State parties that, having ratified the European Convention of Human Rights, have nonetheless violated the civil and political rights set in this international Treaty and its protocols. Through her ERC research, Prof. Eva Brems questioned the accountability and reliability of this supranational court. Is it fit for purpose?