M-BIC Research

Research at M-BIC combines the study of human perception and cognition with the development of advanced methods in neuroscience. Various brain-imaging methods are employed to understand, predict, and change human behaviour. The research involves international and inter-disciplinary collaborations among psychologists, neuroscientists, bioengineers, IT experts, radiologists, and neurologists. M-BIC offers research facilities that were newly established within the Brains Unlimited project, including high (3 Tesla) and ultra-high (7 and 9.4 Tesla) magnetic fields MR scanners.

M-BIC tests and develops new theories of normal and abnormal neural information processing, with special attention to brain plasticity, perception and cognition, and the development of new methods for MR image acquisition and analysis. BrainVoyager, an internationally leading fMRI analysis and visualisation software package, is developed by Prof. Rainer Goebel within this group. Research activities are conducted in close collaboration with the Siemens Medical Systems (Erlangen, Germany) and with national and international leading brain imaging centers.

Martin Frost, postdoctoral fellow at the Maastricht Brain Imaging Center

Martin talks about his work, research at UM, and life in Maastricht.

View Martin's profile

M-BIC research lines

Research line 1
Auditory Perception and Cognition

Brain and Emotion

Research line 2

Led by: Beatrice De Gelder - Profile page

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The group's research focuses on cognitive en affective neuroscience of intersensory perception, between different sensory systems, primarily on the interaction between seeing and hearing and on how emotion and cognition interact in humans. Behavioural and neurofunctional approaches (ERPs, fMRI, MEG and TMS) are used in an integrated fashion.

Rare neuropsychological disorders (e.g. prosopagnosia) and more commonly-occurring neurological disorders (e.g. autism, unilateral neglect, Huntington’s disease and schizophrenia) are investigated and compared with patterns observed in normal and neurologically intact cognition.

Four main strands of interest encompass de Gelder's research activity:

  • non-conscious recognition in patients with cortical damage.
  • emotional expression in whole bodies.
  • face recognition and its deficits.
  • multisensory perception and the interaction between auditory and visual processes.

For more information about the research and publications in Prof. de Gelder’s group, please visit her website.


Computational architecture of visual processing streams

Research line 3

Led by: Rainer Goebel - Profile page

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Computational architecture of visual processing streams
This research group aims to answer the question which neuronal representations are used in the brain and how they are processed to enable specific perceptual and cognitive functions. These questions are investigated by integrating high-resolution functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) with columnar-level neural network modeling and the development of advanced analysis tools.

We still know little about the representations coded inside specialised brain areas and how complex features emerge from combinations of simpler features when we move from one area to the next. With high-field MRI scanners (7 Tesla and beyond), the achievable functional resolution reaches to the sub-millimeter level (500–1000 microns). This is important since neurons with similar response properties seem to spatially cluster into functional units (cortical columns) with a lateral extent of hundreds of microns. Studying the brain at columnar resolution seems to be the appropriate level to reveal the principles that the brain uses to code information. We believe that a massive attempt to crack the columnar-level code in as many areas as possible will ultimately lead to a deeper understanding how mind emerges from simpler units in the brain.

Our progress in understanding brain mechanisms forms the basis of neuroscientific applications. This group has contributed to the development of fMRI neurofeedback and fMRI-based brain computer interfaces (BCI) and is further reducing methodological and conceptual limitations by improving artifact control, sensitivity, real-time algorithms, and experimental designs. Physiological self-regulation of the local BOLD response has become a new paradigm for cognitive neuroscience to study brain plasticity and the functional relevance of regulated brain areas by modification of behaviour. Voluntary control of (abnormal) activity in circumscribed brain areas may even be applied as a therapeutic tool. Furthermore, fMRI-based BCIs might constitute an alternative approach for brain-based communication in severely motor-impaired so-called ‘locked-in’ patients.


Brain and Language

Research line 4

Led by: Milene Bonte - Profile page

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The Brain and Language group aims at understanding cognitive and brain mechanisms underlying language and language development. Our research investigates neural transformations of auditory (speech perception) and visual (reading, object perception) signals into meaningful messages and of thoughts and images into speech plans (speech production). Furthermore we investigate the formation and fine-tuning of these transformations during typical and anomalous language development (dyslexia).

Our research employs tailored psychophysical paradigms for adults and children with and without language disorders, combined with measurements of brain activity at high temporal (EEG), spatial (fMRI at 3T, 7T) and spatio-temporal (ECoG) resolution. We zoom into  underlying brain mechanisms by analyzing our data using advanced analysis techniques including multivariate EEG/fMRI pattern analysis, functional connectivity and fMRI ‘encoding’ analysis. Moreover we assess individual brain-behavior relations by linking these brain measures to different types of behavioral measures including on-line task performance, real-time MRI of vocal tract gestures and cognitive and reading skills.


Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience

Research line 5

Led by: Lisa Jonkman - Profile page

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The research of the section takes place within the relatively new and interdisciplinary field of Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience (DCN). The research is especially devoted to understanding the neural and cognitive changes underlying the typical infant, childhood and adolescent development of memory, attention, inhibition, number processing and perceptual-emotional processing.  Another research line is focused on obtaining knowledge about the development of such brain-cognition relations in children and adolescents known to have memory and attention problems (e.g. in ADHD or autism). The group primarily uses behavioural and electrophysiological (EEG, ERP) techniques to gain insight in the development of such cognition-brain relations.


Brain Stimulation and Cognition

Research line 6

Led by: Alexander Sack - Profile page

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The research of the Brain Stimulation and Cognition group is primarily concerned with identifying the neurobiological and psychological principles underlying perception and cognition in the healthy human brain. To this end, we employ and combine various brain research techniques, ranging from psychophysics and eye-tracking, to Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), Electroencephalography (EEG), and Transcranial Magnetic Brain Stimulation (TMS).

The combination of brain imaging and brain stimulation techniques enables us to study the neural network dynamics of a vast variety of perceptual and cognitive functions, ranging from visual awareness and consciousness, visual learning and memory, to multisensory integration, spatial attention, and cognitive control. We also aim to directly translate our fundamental findings into clinical practice, evaluating and further optimising the effectiveness of functional brain stimulation for guiding plasticity during the rehabilitation of stroke and brain lesion patients.


MR Methods for Neuroscience

Research line 7

Led by: Ben Poser - Profile page

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The research of the “Anatomy and Physiology with MRI” group focuses on the physiological and physical basis of anatomical and functional MRI. To that end, experimental approaches – including, for example, arterial spin labelling MRI and multi-variate pattern analysis – and theoretical models are combined. In addition, the biochemical determinants of anatomical contrast are investigated by combining high-resolution MRI at 7 & 9.4 Tesla and histology in post mortem brains. Another line of research of this group employs theoretical neuronal network models in combination with metabolic models to determine the link between electrophysiological processes and hemodynamic parameters. Furthermore, we work on development of pulse sequences and image reconstruction for ultra-high field applications in both functional and anatomical MRI, as well as parallel RF transmission techniques. Current projects include the application of simultaneous multi-slice and volumetric EPI with controlled aliasing to BOLD fMRI and perfusion measurements, and 2D gradient echo EPI sequences with reduced signal voids.


Perception, Attention and Learning

Research line 8

Led by: Peter de Weerd - Profile page

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Research in our group focuses on cognitive processes that modulate perception. Many of our cognitive abilities are related to the modulation of connectivity between neurons. Such modulation can occur in a flexible or reversible way, as is the case during perception of ambiguous figures, or during selective attention. The modulation can also occur in a more permanent way, which corresponds to a form of learning or memory formation. More permanent modulation of neuronal connectivity requires plastic neuronal changes that are guided by gene expression. In our research programme, we focus on a few specific paradigms that permit to attack questions related to the flexibility of perception, to attention, and to learning, using approaches that vary from psychophysics and fMRI in humans to neurophysiological and molecular approaches in animals. Most of the research takes place in the visual system.



Research line 9

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Method development to improve data quality and data analysis forms the long term basis for staying at the international top of excellent research in Cognitive Neuroscience and adjacent disciplines. The method group is continuously optimising imaging sequences and improving signal-to-noise ratio both in terms of data acquisition (MR physics, hardware of the Siemens scanner, experimental design) and data pre-processing (filtering, alignment of functional and anatomical images). In addition, international expertise of advanced data analysis is available and further developed (ICA, DTI, advanced multivariate brain signal processing such as support vector machines).

The group has expertise in a variety of neuroimaging methods, such as functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), Electroencephalography (EEG), and recently Magnetoencephalography (MEG) and Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS). The group is working on an efficient combination of these methods, which allow observing (fMRI, EEG, MEG) and modulating (TMS) the brain “at work”, revealing details about the spatial distribution, response strength, and timing of activated brain areas. In this multidisciplinary group the synergy between method development and content applications is considered extremely relevant. Most of this is implemented in the software package BrainVoyager.


  • Rainer Goebel (Advanced multi-modal data analysis, real-time fMRI / fNIRS)
  • Elia Formisano (Pattern recognition analysis of neural signals)
  • Alard Roebroeck (Computational brain connectivity)
  • Alexander Sack (Multi-modal brain stimulation)
  • Kamil Uludag (FMRI acquisition methods & modeling)

Multiscale Imaging of Brain Connectivity

Research line 10

Led by: Alard Roebroeck - Profile page

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The section's research focusses on the human brain, investigating both its structure and function. The emphasis is on intricately connected circuits in the human cortex, and how they support computations that enable human perceptual and cognitive capabilities. The adult human brain consists of about 80 billion neurons, each of them making, on average, 10 to 20 thousand connections to other neurons. No other organ is so densely and intricately connected as the brain. Much is still unknown about how the circuits formed by these connections support the communication of activity between neurons and, ultimately, the computations the brain can perform. In the section lab we use state-of-the-art 3D imaging methods to measure the connectivity in brain circuits at different spatial scales. We then model the activity and computations these circuits might support and relate these to measurements of human brain activity. We have a strong methods development component and develop hardware and software technology. We use this technology to answer basic and applied questions about human brain circuits and computations, such as:

  • How is layered cortical architecture (cell size and density, axon density and myelination) related to cortical microcircuits?
  • How does cortical connectivity at multiple spatial scales enable cortical circuit computations needed for perception and cognition?
  • How does the breakdown of neurons and connections in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease lead to loss of function and even people’s very personality?

Staff members:

For more information about the research and publications in the section, click …