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Perceptual and Cognitive Neuroscience


​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Our perceptual and cognitive abilities are what make us human. They determine how human beings perceive the world around them and how they interact with their physical, social and cultural environment, and whether they make sense or non-sense out of it. Perceptual input is a key feature of the conscious brain. It enables human beings to respond and act adequately, adapt to a changing environment, communicate with others, and maintain their social abilities. Understanding perception and cognition, and in particular the different ways in which humans use these functions in their daily life, is of utmost importance for the quality of life, but in some cases even for survival. We are intrigued by questions about how the nervous system handles incoming information during various lifetime phases: in childhoo​d, during adulthood and in later life.​


Deterioration of perception and deterioration of processing of perceptual information in the ageing brain is a source of significant impairment for ageing individuals. But also impaired perception at an early age may modify brain development early in life. It is PCN’s mission to study these perceptual and cognitive aspects of ageing, with the ultimate aim of individuals and society benefiting from our research. To fulfill this mission we have set out to conduct excellent quality research, bringing together both clinical and preclinical approaches in truly translation projects. Moreover, in order to achieve these goals at long term, we need to train excellent young researchers. Thus, it is part of PCN’s mission to provide a stimulating training environment for young researchers who want to work in perceptual and cognitive neuroscience.

Description of the programme  

Research within PCN aims at unraveling normal and impaired functioning of the human visual and auditory systems and the processing of this sensory information, i.e. the underlying cognitive processes. The scientific challenge of understanding perceptual and cognitive functions and dysfunctions can be faced best by multidisciplinary teams of experts integrating expertise from various disciplines.

PCN has 2 main research lines:

  1. Sensory and cognitive systems throughout the lifespan
  2. Disease or disorder-related changes in sensory and cognitive system

Working in collaboration within multidisciplinary projects, PCN research targets questions such as:

  • How does the brain serve our perceptual and cognitive functions?
  • How do the complex interactions between sensory and cognitive systems change with ageing?
  • How do these interactions change with disorders and illnesses?
  • How do such changes affect the way humans interact with their physical, social and cultural environment?
  • How do we maintain healthy perceptual and cognitive systems and function?
  • How can we help people reach their full potential in society?
Relevance to Healthy Ageing  

‘Healthy Ageing’ is a primary focus of research, patient care, education & training within the RuG and the UMCG. PCN, as part of Research Institute Brain and Cognition, aims at promoting research, training, and funding opportunities, in line with this strategic overarching directive, narrowing the Healthy Ageing focus to ‘Ageing Brain’.
Within the research program PCN, an ambitious plan that covers a wide range of activities in research and education has been implemented. To increase the coherence within the research group, PCN organizes regular (joint) scientific and managerial meetings, encourages joint grant applications and other activities.

The programme’s overall goals are the following:

  • Maintain the high level of research activity.
  • Connect our research results directly to excellent clinical care.
  • Acquire joint and individual grants.
  • Ensure output in terms of conference presentations and manuscripts.
  • Maintain high level of visibility in national and international scientific communities.
  • Establish and maintain intensive and effective research collaborations. PhD students are encouraged to participate and work on integrative/joint projects, collaborative and integrative grant proposals at the local, national (e.g. ZON-MW, NWO) and international level (e.g. EU).
  • Maintain an effective communication strategy through the organization of joint research meetings, seminars where PhD students and invited speakers can present and discuss their work (e.g. modelled after KNO lecture series, the auditory seminar).
  • Provide theme-related education: organize a BCN introduction section dedicated to the PCN program, BCN research masters, Topmaster, Medical students and Summer schools.
  • Participate in public outreach activities: organize Science Café style talks and contribute to and participate in the event ‘Groningen Night of Arts & Science’; Publications in journals of patient groups.
Programme leaders   Participating researchers  

F.W. Cornelissen
D. Başkent
N.M. Jansonius
P. van Dijk
S.J. Tuinen-Pyott
A.D. Martens
J.B.C. Marsman
R.J. Renken
R.H. Free
C.D. Fuller