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Graded constraints in semantic cognition: How do we retrieve knowledge in a flexible way?

Total Cost €


EC-Contrib. €






Project "FLEXSEM" data sheet

The following table provides information about the project.


Organization address
postcode: YO10 5DD

contact info
title: n.a.
name: n.a.
surname: n.a.
function: n.a.
email: n.a.
telephone: n.a.
fax: n.a.

 Coordinator Country United Kingdom [UK]
 Total cost 1˙999˙860 €
 EC max contribution 1˙999˙860 € (100%)
 Programme 1. H2020-EU.1.1. (EXCELLENT SCIENCE - European Research Council (ERC))
 Code Call ERC-2017-COG
 Funding Scheme ERC-COG
 Starting year 2018
 Duration (year-month-day) from 2018-04-01   to  2023-03-31


Take a look of project's partnership.

# participants  country  role  EC contrib. [€] 
1    UNIVERSITY OF YORK UK (YORK NORTH YORKSHIRE) coordinator 1˙999˙860.00


 Project objective

For any concept, we have knowledge about diverse features – for example, a dog is furry, can chase rabbits, and is “man’s best friend”. How, at a specific moment, do we flexibly retrieve relevant conceptual knowledge that suits our current goals and context? We can promote coherence between weakly-related aspects of knowledge as required, and also achieve the timely release from patterns of retrieval when the situation changes. These effects are likely to play a central role in our mental lives – yet they are poorly understood because past research has largely focused on how the conceptual store captures what is generally true across experiences (i.e. semantic representation). This project alternatively examines the cognitive and brain mechanisms that promote currently-relevant semantic information. We consider whether flexible semantic retrieval involves the recruitment of additional brain regions, organised within large-scale distributed networks, that place constraints on patterns of retrieval in the semantic store. In this way, semantic flexibility might relate to the evolving interaction between distinct brain networks. We examine whether specific brain regions support distinct cognitive processes (e.g., “automatic retrieval”; “selection”) or, alternatively, whether the functional organisation of these networks is non-arbitrary, with brain regions further away from the semantic store supporting retrieval when there is a greater mismatch between ongoing retrieval and the pattern required by the context. We test this “graded constraints” hypothesis by combining parametric manipulations of the need for constraint with convergent neuroscientific methods that characterise functional recruitment in space (magnetic resonance imaging) and time (magnetoencephalography). We investigate causality (neuropsychology; brain stimulation) and the broader implications of our account (using an individual differences approach).


year authors and title journal last update
List of publications.
2019 Tirso Rene del Jesus Gonzalez Alam, Theodoros Karapanagiotidis, Jonathan Smallwood, Elizabeth Jefferies
Degrees of lateralisation in semantic cognition: Evidence from intrinsic connectivity
published pages: 116089, ISSN: 1053-8119, DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2019.116089
NeuroImage 202 2019-11-25
2019 Catarina Teige, Piers L. Cornelissen, Giovanna Mollo, Tirso Rene del Jesus Gonzalez Alam, Kristofor McCarty, Jonathan Smallwood, Elizabeth Jefferies
Dissociations in semantic cognition: Oscillatory evidence for opposing effects of semantic control and type of semantic relation in anterior and posterior temporal cortex
published pages: 308-325, ISSN: 0010-9452, DOI: 10.1016/j.cortex.2019.07.002
Cortex 120 2019-11-25
2019 Natalie E. Adams, Catarina Teige, Giovanna Mollo, Theodoros Karapanagiotidis, Piers L. Cornelissen, Jonathan Smallwood, Roger D. Traub, Elizabeth Jefferies, Miles A. Whittington
Theta/delta coupling across cortical laminae contributes to semantic cognition
published pages: 1150-1161, ISSN: 0022-3077, DOI: 10.1152/jn.00686.2018
Journal of Neurophysiology 121/4 2019-11-25
2019 Lucilla Lanzoni, Hannah Thompson, Danai Beintari, Katrina Berwick, Harriet Demnitz-King, Hannah Raspin, Maria Taha, Sara Stampacchia, Jonathan Smallwood, Elizabeth Jefferies
Emotion and location cues bias conceptual retrieval in people with deficient semantic control
published pages: 294-305, ISSN: 0028-3932, DOI: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2019.05.030
Neuropsychologia 131 2019-11-25
2018 Xiuyi Wang, Boris C. Bernhardt, Theodoros Karapanagiotidis, Irene De Caso, Tirso Rene del Jesus Gonzalez Alam, Zacharria Cotter, Jonathan Smallwood, Elizabeth Jefferies
The structural basis of semantic control: Evidence from individual differences in cortical thickness
published pages: 480-489, ISSN: 1053-8119, DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2018.07.044
NeuroImage 181 2019-11-25
2019 Charlotte Murphy, Hao-Ting Wang, Delali Konu, Rebecca Lowndes, Daniel S. Margulies, Elizabeth Jefferies, Jonathan Smallwood
Modes of operation: A topographic neural gradient supporting stimulus dependent and independent cognition
published pages: 487-496, ISSN: 1053-8119, DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2018.11.009
NeuroImage 186 2019-11-25
2018 Tirso Gonzalez Alam, Charlotte Murphy, Jonathan Smallwood, Elizabeth Jefferies
Meaningful inhibition: Exploring the role of meaning and modality in response inhibition
published pages: 108-119, ISSN: 1053-8119, DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2018.06.074
NeuroImage 181 2019-11-25
2019 Sara Stampacchia, Suzanne Pegg, Glyn Hallam, Jonathan Smallwood, Matthew A. Lambon Ralph, Hannah Thompson, Elizabeth Jefferies
Control the source: Source memory for semantic, spatial and self-related items in patients with LIFG lesions
published pages: 165-183, ISSN: 0010-9452, DOI: 10.1016/j.cortex.2019.04.014
Cortex 119 2019-11-25
2019 Meichao Zhang, Nicola Savill, Daniel S. Margulies, Jonathan Smallwood, Elizabeth Jefferies
Distinct individual differences in default mode network connectivity relate to off-task thought and text memory during reading
published pages: , ISSN: 2045-2322, DOI: 10.1038/s41598-019-52674-9
Scientific Reports 9/1 2019-11-25

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