ERC Advanced Grant awarded to project MatCo

The ECN is delighted to congratulate Prof. Dr. Dr. Friedemann Pulvermüller for receving an European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Grant.

The project “MatCo” (Material Constraints Enabling Human Cognition) led by Prof Pulvermüller at the Freie Universität Berlin will use novel insights from human neurobiology translated into mathematically exact computational models to find new answers to long-standing questions in cognitive science, linguistics and philosophy.

Recent breakthroughs in comparative neurobiological research highlight specific features of the connectivity structure of the human brain, which open new perspectives on understanding the neural mechanisms of human-specific higher cognition and language. In delineating the material basis of human cognition and language, neurobiologically founded modelling appears as the method of choice, as it allows not only for ‘external fitting’ of models to key experimental data, but, in addition, for ‘internal’ or ‘material fitting’ of the model components to the structure of brains, cortical areas and neuronal circuits.

This novel research pathway offers biologically well-founded and computationally precise perspectives on addressing exciting hitherto unanswered fundamental questions, such as the following: How can humans build vocabularies of tens and hundreds of thousands of words, whereas our closest evolutionary relatives typically use below 100? How is semantic meaning implemented for gestures and words, and, more specifically, for referential and categorical terms? How can grounding and interpretability of abstract symbols be anchored biologically? Which features of connectivity between nerve cells are crucial for the formation of discrete representations and categorical combination? Would modelling of cognitive functions using brain-constrained networks allow for better predictions on brain activity indexing the processing of signs and their meaning?

Models replicating structural differences between human and non-human primate brains will help delineate mechanisms underlying specifically human cognitive capacities. Key experiments will validate critical model predictions and new neurophysiological data will be applied to further improve the biologically-constrained networks.


MatCo will be funded with 2.5 Mio Euro by the European Research Council, ERC. Prof. Pulvermüller is teaching Linguistics and Neuroscience of Language at the Department of Philosophy of the Freie Universität Berlin and the Berlin School of Mind and Brain. He had been taking PhDs in Linguistics and Psychology at the Universities of Tübingen and Konstanz before joining the Medical Research Council’s Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit at Cambridge University as a Programme Leader in the Neuroscience of Language. In 2011, he moved to the Freie Universität to support the Cluster of Excellence “Languages of Emotions”.

He is a PI at the Einstein Center of Neuroscience Berlin and at the Humboldt University’s Excellence Cluster “Matters of Activity”, which also focuses on deciphering the material basis of cognition. Pulvermüller’s MatCo project will start later in 2020 and run for 5 years.

Source: Press Release

More information:
Project: Material Constraints Enabling Human Cognition, MatCo
Principle Investigator: Prof. Dr. phil. Dr. rer.soc. Dr. h.c. Friedemann Pulvermüller         
Project Number ERC-2019-ADG 883811, 2020—2025
Funding: European Research Council, EU Horizon 2020
Funding amount: 2,499,580.00 €

Prof. Dr. Dr. Friedemann Pulvermüller

ECN Member
Arbeitsbereich Neurowissenschaft der Sprache und Pragmatik &
Labor für Gehirn- und Sprachforschung / Brain Language Laboratory
FB Philosophie und Geisteswissenschaften, WE4
Freie Universität Berlin, Habelschwerdter Allee 45, Raum JK 31/232, 14195 Berlin, Germany
Tel.:      +49 (0)30 838 54443
Email:  Friedemann.pulvermuller(at)



About ERC Grants: The funding program of the European Research Council (ERC) is one of the most prestigious in Europe. Since 2009, the ERC awarded Advanced Grants to all disciplines, which are endowed with up to 2.5 million euros over five years. Up to now, FMP researchers have received in total 7 ERC-Grants, among them 3 Advanced Grants.



Go back