Principle Investigator

Iris van Rooij

Iris van Rooij leads the Computational Cognitive Science group at the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour. Her main scientific aim is to devise computational explanations of core cognitive abilities, such as inference, prediction, analogizing and communication. Not enchanted by ‘just so stories’, she requires these explanations to be both computationally explicit yet scalable. To develop novel formal and conceptual tools for devising such explanations, she draws upon computational complexity theory, philosophy of cognitive science, and the full range of cognitive modeling approaches.

Senior Researchers

Beata J. Grzyb

Beata J. Grzyb is an Assistant Professor and track leader of Robot Cognition track at the Artificial Intelligence Department. Her research merges robotics and developmental psychology. She believes that bringing together robotics and developmental psychology permits to combine the best of human learning and the best of machine learning in a way that can benefit both. Her research efforts focus on understanding mechanisms by which children can progressively discover their bodies and learn how to interact with their physical and social environment. Of particular interest to her is understanding of the computational principles that govern the interaction between action, perception and language development.

Johan Kwisthout

George Kachergis is an Assistant Professor in A.I. and leader of the Web and Language specialization. George wants to uncover shared mechanisms and representations of human learning, memory, and categorization with two linked objectives: 1) to understand how people learn about and (mis)represent the world, so that 2) we are able to create more human-like artificial intelligence. With interests and approaches that cross-cut traditional approaches, his work touches on categorization, semantic models, associative learning, language learning, memory, and decision-making. One strong research theme is language acquisition: how do learning and memory mechanisms allow us to bootstrap meaning from the statistics of our language environment? What is the structure of the language environment, and how does it help/hinder hypothesized learning mechanisms? He has recently been applying cognitive psychological principles and models to create adaptive educational software, both as a research platform for investigating active, self-directed learning, and as an open-source aid for literacy and numeracy education.

Johan Kwisthout

Johan Kwisthout is an Assistant Professor at the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, and coordinator of the AI MSc programme. His research interests may be paraphrased as "Where Bayes, Turing, and Fodor meet": reasoning under uncertainty, computational complexity, and the application of both fields of study in (theoretical) cognitive (neuro-)science. He is interested in topics related to (Bayesian) abduction and relevancy, both from a philosophical, cognitive, and computational perspective. Currently he is mostly interested in resource-bounded approximate computations in the brain, in particular in identifying sources of computational intractability and investigating how the proposed algorithms for these computations can be rendered tractable, relative to the brain’s resources.

PhD Candidates

Katja Abramova

Katja Abramova is a PhD student at the Faculty of Philosophy and the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour at Radboud University Nijmegen, jointly supervised by Marc Slors and Iris van Rooij. She is primarily interested in enactive accounts of language evolution. Because such an account sees language as emerging from social interaction, her project has recently shifted to the field of action coordination. Specifically, a mechanistic explanation of social sensorimotor coupling in joint action is currently on her agenda.

Nils Donselaar

Nils Donselaar is a PhD student at the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour. Working under supervision of Johan Kwisthout, he is looking to further explore the (in)tractability of approximate inferences in Bayesian networks. While his research is mainly focused on parameterized complexity theory, he also strives to link theoretical insights from this field to the Predictive Processing account in neuroscience. In this way, he aims to investigate if and in what way the approximate inferences involved can be tractable for parameters which are plausibly constrained by the biology of the brain.

Lieke Heil

Lieke Heil is a PhD student at the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition, and Behaviour. She is interested in the cognitive and neural mechanisms behind human action observation and understanding. In order to study this topic, she combines methods and theories from cognitive neuroscience, experimental psychology and cognitive science.

Maria Otworowska

Brain: the final frontier. Maria Otworowska is a PhD student at the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour. Her four-year mission: to explore strange new theories, to seek out new cognitive architectures and unifying frameworks, to boldly go where no scientist has gone before. Her main quest is to investigate and extend the Predictive Coding framework to answer the eternal question: How does the (Bayesian) brain work (so efficiently)? Personally, she dreams to find out why we can never experience what it is like to be a bat.

Iris van de Pol

Iris van de Pol is a PhD candidate at the Institute for Logic, Language and Computation (ILLC) at the University of Amsterdam and is affiliated with the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour. She is jointly supervised by Jakub Szymanik, Iris van Rooij, Nina Gierasimczuk, Ivan Toni and Johan van Benthem. Her project is about the complexity of communicating and reasoning about mental states, in particular in the context of non-verbal communication games. Her research involves computational modeling (using epistemic logic and game theory) and (parameterized) complexity analysis, and collaborating with cognitive neuroscientists to design and conduct behavioral and neuroscientific experiments to test model predictions. She is also interested in philosophy of cognitive science, in particular in the different levels of investigation used in cognitive science and related methodological and philosophical issues.

Tobias Winner

Tobias Winner is a PhD at the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour. His research focuses on how communicative intentions are formed and translated into basic motor behavior. At the interface of the cognitive system and the motor control system, this multidisciplinary project combines mathematical modelling with behavioral as well as neuroimaging experiments to unravel the neurocomputational mechanisms of communicative pointing.

Master Students

Stefano Gentili

Stefano Gentili is a cognitive neuroscience master student at the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour. He studied cognitive psychology at the university of Trento and now his main interest is to try to understand how people reason and solve problems. At the moment his main focus is insight problem solving and, with the help of mathematical modelling tools, to achieve a good theoretical understanding of this matter to have one day some good predictions to be backed by neuroscientific data.

Affiliated Members

Mark Blokpoel

Mark Blokpoel is a post-doctoral researcher at the Center of Excellence Cognitive Interaction Technology and the Language, Communication and Cognition group at Bielefeld University. His main research interest is to understand people's inferential capacities that underlie their communicative abilities. For example, how is it possible that we can understand a foreigner who does not speak our language but uses novel gestures to communicate? His work involves computational modeling (e.g. Bayesian and Structure Mapping Theory), robotic/agent-based simulations, computational complexity analysis and philosophy of mind.

Stefan Frank

Stefan Frank is a researcher at the Centre for Language Studies and an assistant professor at the Faculty of Arts of Radboud University. In addition, he holds an honorary position as a research associate at the Department of Experimental Psychology of University College London. His research interest include cognitive modelling, psycholinguistics, and computational linguistics. More in particular, he combines computational and experimental methods to study the cognitive process of human language comprehension.

Giulio Mecacci

Giulio Mecacci is a PhD-candidate at the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behavior and Radboud University. His area of expertise is philosophy of mind and cognitive sciences. His research focuses on theoretical foundations and philosophical implications of neuroscience. He is particularly interested in the peculiar role that neurotechnologies play in the scientific and societal understanding of mind.

Todd Wareham

Todd Wareham is a Professor in the Department of Computer Science at Memorial University of Newfoundland. His research interest is in applying analysis techniques from computational complexity theory to problems arising in various disciplines, including cognitive science, robotics, linguistics, and molecular biology. He has special interest and expertise in analogy-based cognitive processing.


Tijl Grootswagers

Tijl Grootswagers is currently postdoctoral fellow at University of Sydney, Australia.

André Klapper

André Klapper is currently postdoctoral fellow in the Decision Neuroscience Lab at the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behavior.