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Two NWO ORA projects faculty GMW

04 October 2018

Elkan Akyurek (psychology) and Andreas Flache (sociology) both receive a contribution from the Open Research Area for the Social Sciences funding program (ORA) with their international research teams. ORA is an European program in which Dutch NWO participates. A total of 17 million euros was awarded to sixteen research teams, including fourteen teams from the Netherlands. Academics in Europe and Japan can collaborate with this contribution on various projects in the social sciences.

Honored research proposals:

Hidden Brain States Underlying Efficient Representations in Working Memory
Elkan Akyurek, University of Groningen (NL); Nikolai Axmacher, Ruhr-University Bochum (D); Mark Stokes, University of Oxford (GB)
Discipline: Cognitive Neuroscience

Human working memory not only serves to keep track of changes around us, but is also vital to our ability to learn. When it comes to the nature of working memory, two facts are beyond doubt: First, it is notoriously limited and can hold only a handful of items at any given time. Second, this precious limited resource needs to be optimised, by organising memoranda into structured representations of objects and events. Beyond these basic facts, however, the nature of storage space in working memory is not well defined and is currently heavily debated. Even advanced measures of brain activity have so far not been able to provide decisive evidence. Fundamental challenges in measuring the neural correlates of working memory impede a better understanding of how memory limits arise and how they might be alleviated.
Past research has assumed working memory is represented in persistent neural activity; however, we argue that neural coding for working memory actually goes far deeper than such stable activity states. Until recently, there was no obvious method to explore working memory representations beyond persistent delay activity, but a new technique (‘neural sonar’) we developed allows a fresh perspective on the underlying, hidden states of the neural network. We will apply our new approach to determine the fundamental nature of capacity limits in working memory, and how encoding, maintenance and working memory-guided decision making can be optimised for superior memory performance.

Towards Realistic Computational Models of Social Influence Dynamics
Klaus Boehnke, Jacobs University Bremen (D); Guillaume Deffuant, Irstea (F); Bruce Edmonds, Manchester Metropolitan University (GB); Andreas Flache, University of Groningen (NL)
Disciplines: Empirical Social Research, Psychology, Political Science

Recently, many societies shifted towards more polarization and volatility in opinions, for example in attitudes about immigration or climate policy. The project ToRealSim (Towards realistic computational models of social influence dynamics) has the ambition to improve understanding of these dynamics by focusing on the complex micro-macro interactions that may bring them about. Opinion dynamics will be studied as possible unintended results of local yet interdependent social influence processes in large populations. In a combined effort of research teams from the Netherlands (U Groningen), UK (U Manchester & Leicester), Germany (Jacobs U, Bremen) and France (LISC, Aubiere), computational agent-based models will be theoretically extended, empirically calibrated with data from experiments and social network studies; and tested against observed opinion dynamics in immigration- and climate-related issues, using in particular a range of large-scale cross-country survey and panel data-sets. Models will further be used to study policy implications.

"Nice result"

Dean prof.dr. Kees Aarts was delighted with the news: "It is a very nice result that within 2 of 14 awarded projects with Dutch researchers staff members of our faculty are involved". In addition to the two projects at GMW, also a project of Spatial Sciences faculty has been funded.

More information:

Last modified:25 April 2019 2.27 p.m.
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