East – West Connections
Cultural circuits in the human brain

Workshop within the frame of the
Human Cognition Initiative,

initiated by Professor Jan Carlstedt-Duke,
Director, NITHM, and Coordinator of the Future Healthcare Peak,
at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Balázs GULYÁS, Professor of Translational Neuroscience, LKCMedicine, NTU

Jan VASBINDER, Director, Para Limes, NTU

15 – 16 September 2014

Nanyang Executive Centre, Nanyang Technological University
60 Nanyang View, Singapore 639673



Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore is one of Asia’s and the world’s premium universities with over 35.000 students. NTU is covering most of the fields of technology and engineering, from space technologies through civil engineering to biotechnologies, but it also has schools in the fields of, among others, the humanities, psychology, biology and medicine. NTU already has some strong research groups related to cognitive sciences, but it aims now at developing a well-focused and “context specific” research programme on human cognition (i.e. appropriate for the profile of NTU, using its already existing research platforms and enriching it with new research areas as well as unique for its Singaporean context as a “hub” in-between East and West).

As a first step to achieve these goals, I propose a “brainstorming workshop” within the frame of NTU, with an eye on a ‘surveying the recent state-of-affairs in the aforementioned field’ as well as proposing an outline for a university (NTU) and region (Singapore) specific research programme in the field of human cognition research.

As a first “motif” for the topics of the workshop, “cultural circuits in the human brain – East-West connections” has been proposed, signalling the fact that Asia’s best university, NTU, is at the intersection of East and West, containing, understanding, exploring and exploiting the cultural heritage and the scientific advances of both worlds and having a unique potential to pursuit further research in this area successfully.

The participants of the workshop have been selected so that they (i) represent both NTU scientists and international experts, (ii) represent some major trends of our present day cognitive neuroscience, (iii) include representatives of various sub-disciplines important for cognitive science (neurophysiology, imaging, philosophy, etc.), and (iv) include both world leading senior authorities, well established mid-age protagonists of the field and aspiring younger professors.



The human brain is the most complex structure in our Universe, known to us humans. And it is also the most plastic organisation. Due to its plasticity, each human being is an individual person with a unique personality, consciousness, cognition and behaviour. The human brain contains well over ten billion neurons and at least as many, if not many many more, other cells called glia. The connections among neurons and, as we have learnt more recently, glia cells are creating neuronal circuits or networks which can be regarded as the main information processing units in the brain. The coherent activities of the millions of neuronal circuits in the human brain are responsible for brain functions, including the highest cognitive functions. The development of these neuronal networks is partly determined by basic neurobiological mechanisms, but it is also determined by highly individual interactions with the environment, be it natural or social. This highly individual development of brain circuits is responsible for the enormous variety among people and for the uniqueness of each human person. The present workshop will focus on the development and plasticity of brain circuits in a cultural context, and the consequent differences in our cognitive functions. The event is a part of the new Human Cognition Initiative of NTU.




Videos & Presentation Slides

Welcome and introduction by Jan W. Vasbinder (Director, Para Limes, Nanyang Technological University)
and Balázs Gulyás (Professor of Translational Neuroscience, LKCMedicine, Nanyang Technological University)


Speaker: Jean-Pierre Changeux
Collège de France and Institut Pasteur, Paris, France


Speaker: Gábor Tamás
University of Szeged, Hungary


Speaker: Per Roland
Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden and University of Copenhagen, Denmark


Speaker: Atsushi Iriki
RIKEN Brain Science Institute, Japan


Speaker: Szabolcs Kéri
University of Technology and National Institute of Psychiatry, Budapest, Hungary


Speaker: Roger Vergouwen
Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium


Summary of the first day


Speaker: Ying-Yi Hong
Nanyang Business School, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore


Speaker: Annabel Chen
School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore


Speaker: John Holland
University of Michigan, United States


Speaker: Gyula Kovács
University of Jena, Germany


Speaker: George Christopoulos
Nanyang Business School, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore


Speaker: Kerry Lee
National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore


Summary of the second day and closing remarks