PhD Position in Referential Communication at the Donders Centre for Cognition

PhD Position in Referential Communication at the Donders Centre for Cognition

Published Deadline Location
19 Jan 30 Jan Nijmegen

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Job description

Imagine ordering a drink at a restaurant, pointing at an empty glass as an attentive waiter passes by. How did you select that particular gesture, and how could the waiter possibly interpret it as you intended? This cognitive neuroscience project bridges the fields of social motor cognition and neuropragmatics to understand the emergence and control of interaction-specific shared context.

This project studies interlocutors engaged in linguistic and non-linguistic communicative referential games, using behavioural (arm movements, gaze) and neural (fMRI, EEG) correlates of production and comprehension of communicative signals. The goal of this project is to understand neurocognitive mechanisms supporting the construction of an interaction-specific context, i.e. a context that allows interlocutors to communicate effectively with referentially flexible signals. The project will test the hypothesis that interlocutors' brains become synchronised to shared communicative control parameters, over and above the dynamics of signal occurrence.

We are looking for an MSc graduate interested in starting a PhD, joining a multidisciplinary team at the Donders Institute. The project is embedded in the research groups of Professors Ivan Toni, Arjen Stolk and Bruno Galantucci and Dr Jana Basnakova, combining expertise in social neurocognition, experimental semiotics and neuropragmatics. The project will develop and use novel referential games, quantifying the dynamics of neural geometries simultaneously in dyads of interlocutors (dual fMRI) using representational similarity analyses. In the second part of the project, we intend to non-invasively manipulate the excitation-inhibition balance of neuronal ensembles supporting the construction of an interaction-specific context, altering the relative neural dynamics between two interlocutors.

The position also involves supervision of a dedicated research assistant, as well as mentoring MSc students. You will take the lead in reporting the findings, in collaboration with the PIs, in international journals and conferences. The Donders Institute values a diverse workforce. Female candidates are therefore particularly encouraged to apply.

The position will involve spending 10% of your working time on support academic activities, to be determined.


Radboud University


  • You hold an MSc degree in cognitive neuroscience.
  • You have hands-on experience with linguistic and non-linguistic referential games and human neuroimaging, and are familiar with neuropragmatics.
  • Coding literacy (Matlab, Python, and/or R) and fluency in written/spoken English are required.
  • You have a strong collaborative attitude and a proven ability to work in a team.
  • You should be able to plan, execute and analyse projects investigating human communication during performance of interactive referential games in fMRI.

Conditions of employment

Fixed-term contract: You will be employed for an initial period of 18 months, after which your performance will be evaluated. If the evaluation is positive, the contract will be extended by 2.5 years (4 year contract).

  • It concerns an employment for 1.0 FTE.
  • The gross starting salary amounts to €2,541 per month based on a 38-hour working week, and will increase to €3,247 in the fourth year (salary scale P).
  • You will receive 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus.
  • You will be employed for an initial period of 18 months, after which your performance will be evaluated. If the evaluation is positive, the contract will be extended by 2.5 years (4 year contract).
  • You will be able to use our Dual Career and Family Care Services. Our Dual Career and Family Care Officer can assist you with family-related support, help your partner or spouse prepare for the local labour market, provide customized support in their search for employment and help your family settle in Nijmegen.
  • Working for us means getting extra days off. In case of full-time employment, you can choose between 30 or 41 days of annual leave instead of the legally allotted 20.
Work and science require good employment practices. This is reflected in Radboud University's primary and secondary employment conditions. You can make arrangements for the best possible work-life balance with flexible working hours, various leave arrangements and working from home. You are also able to compose part of your employment conditions yourself, for example, exchange income for extra leave days and receive a reimbursement for your sports subscription. And of course, we offer a good pension plan. You are given plenty of room and responsibility to develop your talents and realise your ambitions. Therefore, we provide various training and development schemes.


The Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour is a world-class interfaculty research centre that houses more than 700 researchers devoted to understanding the mechanistic underpinnings of the human mind. Research at the Donders Institute is focused around four themes: 1. Language and communication, 2. Perception, action and control, 3. Plasticity and memory, 4. Neural computation and neurotechnology. Excellent, state-of-the-art research facilities are available for the broad range of neuroscience research that is being conducted at the Donders Institute. The Donders Institute has been assessed by an international evaluation committee as 'excellent' and recognised as a 'very stimulating environment for top researchers, as well as for young talent'. The Donders Institute fosters a collaborative, multidisciplinary, supportive research environment with a diverse international staff. English is the lingua franca at the Institute.

Radboud University

We want to get the best out of science, others and ourselves. Why? Because this is what the world around us desperately needs. Leading research and education make an indispensable contribution to a healthy, free world with equal opportunities for all. This is what unites the more than 24,000 students and 5,600 employees at Radboud University. And this requires even more talent, collaboration and lifelong learning. You have a part to play!


  • PhD; Research, development, innovation
  • Behaviour and society
  • max. 40 hours per week
  • €2541—€3247 per month
  • University graduate
  • 1203775



Houtlaan 4, 6525 XZ, Nijmegen

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