ESR4 : Brain indexes of semantic and pragmatic prediction

PhD fellowship

Objectives:

Although the role of prediction in language and communication processing is widely acknowledged, there exist few brain indexes that directly map the neurophysiological correlates of prediction as these emerge in real time. Most studies use event-related activity elicited after the predicted (or not predicted) linguistic forms, e.g., the N400 to semantically expected or unexpected words, and more recently, speech acts. ESR4 will use the readiness potential to directly map the emergence of prediction correlates in the course of communications between two people. Participants will engage in different interactive language games while predictive brain responses will be measured with EEG or fMRI and, eventually, MEG. TMS will be applied to find out whether local stimulation can specifically interfere with communicative predictions. ESR4 will also examine the role of sentence context, where semantic predictions in affirmative and negated sentences will be contrasted. We expect ESR4 to find new brain indexes of semantic and pragmatic predictions, which will be used to directly assess current theories of alignment between communication partners in different types of conversations.


Expected results:

  • Define the readiness potential’s role as an index of semantic and pragmatic predictions;
  • Compare neural correlated of communicative and semantic function and prediction for different types of social interactions and speech acts.

Based in Berlin, Germany

Full-time three-year contract, starting September 2020

PhD enrolment at: Freie Universität Berlin

Main supervisor’s institution: Freie Universität Berlin

Main supervisor: Prof Friedemann Pulvermüller

Secondments:

  • Aix-Marseille University: cooperation on MEG work addressing speech production and comprehension in communication with MEG (5 months);
  • Italian Institute of Technology, Ferrara: cooperation on the design and implementation of the TMS experiment (6 months).

Co-supervisors’ institutions:

  • Aix-Marseille University, France
  • Italian Institute of Technology, Ferrara, Italy

Benefits

The ESR will be contractually employed for 36 months by the main institution, and will be covered under the social security scheme of the enrolling country. She/he will monthly receive a Living Allowance, a Mobility Allowance and a Family Allowance (if applicable) compliant with the applicable EC Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions-ITN general conditions.

The net salary for ESR1 will be about €2.300-2.700 according to her/his situation.

Eligibility criteria:

Experience eligibility requirement: Eligible applicants must be in the first 4 years of their research careers (full-time equivalent research experience) at the signature of the contract (measured from the time the Master’s degree has been obtained).

Eligible applicants must not hold a Doctoral Degree yet.

Mobility eligibility requirement

The fellow must not have resided in the main institution’s country for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately prior to the recruitment date, and not have carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in that country.

Selection process

February-March 2020: Opening of the call

Applications must be sent to administrative support and contain the following:

  1. An up-to-date CV, without gaps, in order for the selection committee to easily check the mobility and experience requirements. CVs that either do not clearly show the applicant’s past experience, or have gaps, will be considered ineligible;
  2. A letter exposing her/his motivation for a COBRA PhD fellowship, and her preference for two of the fifteen PhD projects proposed in COBRA;
  3. At least 1 reference letter (in English) from one former supervisor and/or lecturer;
  4. The scan of the degree (usually the master’s degree) which would formally entitles her/him to embark on a doctorate, either in the country in which the degree was obtained, or in the country in which the researcher will be recruited. If the degree has not been obtained yet, the applicant will have to provide a declaration of her/his university stating that the degree will be obtained before the expected starting date;
  5. Transcripts of records (document indicating the applicant’s ranking and marks within her/his master’s degree as well as the courses/modules she/he has followed).

Admissions time-line

  • April 2020: Selection & ranking of pre-selected candidates
  • May 2020: pre-selected candidates’ interviews
  • June 2020: Notification of the selected candidates
  • September-October 2020: beginning of contracts

Additional comments

REQUIRED EDUCATION LEVEL: Master’s degree or equivalent
REQUIRED LANGUAGES: ENGLISH (Good)

Specific Requirements:

Applications must be in English and will be evaluated against the following criteria:

  • Educational record;
  • Scientific quality of the applicant’s CV;
  • Expected impact and benefit to the fellow and to the project;
  • Previous experiences in the area of the COBRA research programme.

COBRA supports equal opportunity and encourages female researchers to apply for positions.

In the event that the ESR recruited has a disability such that her/his participation in the project is not possible without extra financial support, the host institution will apply for a dedicated Special Needs Lump Sum allowance (SNLS) to the European Commission.

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