Meet the Visual Language Lab at Tilburg University...

Neil Cohn Ph.D. has been fascinated with drawing and comics his whole life. By age 10, he was selling his own created comics via mail order catalogue, and, starting at age 15, he spent his teenage summers throughout the 1990s working for Image Comics and Todd McFarlane Productions at Comic-Con International. His artistic work appears in Meditations (2005), We the People (2004), A User’s Guide to Thought and Meaning (2012), and The Graphic Canon, Vol. 2 (2012).

While taking a linguistics class as an undergraduate at UC Berkeley in 1999, Neil began noticing similarities between the underlying structure of language and the structure found in the "visual language" used in comics. Since then, his research has argued that the structure, cognition, and development of this visual language is similar to that of spoken and signed languages, as aruged in his books The Visual Language of Comics (2013) and Who Understands Comics? (2020, Nominated for the 2021 Eisner Award for Best Academic/Scholarly Work). He has contributed to the creation of new emoji 😮‍💨, and his work formed the theoretical foundation for automatically generated news comics at BBC News.

In 2020, Neil began the project Visual narratives as a window into language and cognition (TINTIN) funded by a European Research Council Starting Grant. This project will create multimodal software tools to facilitate examining the cross-cultural differences between visual languages in the world, and explore their relationships to the structures in spoken languages.

Neil received his Ph.D. in Psychology from Tufts University working with Ray Jackendoff, Gina Kuperberg, and Phil Holcomb. He did his postdoctoral research working with Marta Kutas and Jeff Elman at UC San Diego. He is currently an Associate Professor at the Tilburg center for Cognition and Communication at Tilburg University, in the Netherlands.


Additional links:

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Contact information:

Neil Cohn, Ph.D.
Tilburg center for Cognition and Communication (TiCC)
P.O. Box 90153, 5000 LE Tilburg, The Netherlands

Bruno Cardoso Ph.D. is a Postdoctoral Researcher at Tiburg University currently programming the Multimodal Annotation Software Tool (MAST) for the TINTIN project. His research interests are focused on the field of Human-Computer Interaction - more specifically, on the topics of emotion, usability, context-awareness in mobile devices and domain-specific languages. His research has been presented in major international scientific venues like the UIST, CHI, IUI, UbiComp and CIKM. In a biographical nutshell, Bruno got his BSc and MSc in Computer Science at the University of Évora (Évora, Portugal). He then spent some years building his experience as a consultant and freelance developer, before deciding to do a Ph.D. in Computer Science at the Nova University of Lisbon (Lisbon, Portugal). Close to the end of his studies, Bruno spent a sunny Winter working as a research intern at Telefonica R&D (Barcelona, Spain). After obtaining his Ph.D., Bruno spent 3 years as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at KU Leuven (Leuven, Belgium). A pretty eclectic person, Bruno loves learning new things, science, technology (emphasis on all things computer) and culture. (Website)

Irmak Hacımusaoğlu M.Sc. is a Ph.D. student at Tilburg University and a doodle artist. She holds a MSc degree in Cognitive Neuropsychology (Research) from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (2019). Her master's research combined behavioral and electrophysiological (EEG) approaches. She worked with Prof. Dr. Martijn Meeter in her dissertation project which was about false memory generations in educational settings. Before that, she received her BA in Psychology (magna cum laude) with a specialization in Brain & Cognitive Sciences from Koç University, 2017. Her primary research interests include cultural memories, cognitive aspects of visual narratives (e.g., mimicry and the visual language) and the cognition of drawing. She is fascinated by the intersect between neuroscience and humanities and has become a member of NeuroGenderings Network.

Bien Klomberg M.Sc. is a Ph.D. student at Tilburg University, excited to combine her lifelong love for stories and linguistics with an equally long passion for drawing and comics. During her bachelor at University College Roosevelt, Middelburg, she studied stylistics, rhetorics, literature, and cognitive linguistics, with figurative language and point of view as special interests. Her masters in Communication and Cognition at Tilburg University focused on inferencing techniques in visual narratives. As a hobby artist, she enjoys mixing craft with science. She still draws, and love stories in written form as well as Netflix series.

Vanessa Mondry is a Bachelor student studying cognitive science and artificial intelligence at Tilburg University with an interest in cognition and neuroscience. She has assisted in the Tilburg center for Cognition and Communication EEG Lab for two years. She is also interested in the intersection of cognition and neuroscience with artificial intelligence and the ethics surrounding it. She plans to pursue graduate studies in neuroscience and behavioral studies.

Affiliated graduate students and postdocs

Aditya Upadhyayula, PhD (University of California, Davis) is a recently graduated PhD formerly working with Jon Flombaum on how we represent, process, and thereby group moments in time. Prior to pursuing a Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology, he was trained as an Electrical and Computer Engineer, and a Physicist. He loves walking, cooking, and playing the guitar and the piano. He once made traditional South Indian potato fries with Italian seasoning (Although ironic, he maintains that it was delicious). He is often seeing going on long walks wondering how he has ended up pursuing cognitive psychology. Nevertheless, he is happy to be studying how the mind works. He is very interested in building and using computational models to understand human cognition. He recently began a postdoc working with John Henderson at UC Davis. (Website)

Fernando Casanova (University of Murcia, Spain) is a PhD student sponsored by a FPU scholarship granted by the Spanish Ministry of Education and Culture. He holds two degrees in Language Sciences (Spanish, English and French) and an MA in Theoretical and Applied Linguistics. His doctoral thesis focuses on the study of interjections and onomatopoeias, their emotions, and the co-speech body and facial gestures they incorporate. His aims are focused on observing intercultural differences from an emotional, cognitive, psychological, paralinguistic and multimodal perspective. From that multimodal level, he is analyzing the representation of human beings through drawings (comics) and physically with real people (NewsScape Television News Library, developed by the Red Hen Lab). He is fascinated by the psychological and cognitive connection of emotions and gestures to express all kinds of information and that allows us to communicate in an efficient way.

Morgan Patrick (Northwestern University, USA) is a Ph.D. student in music theory and cognition. His collaboration with Neil focuses around enumerating the interface between musical form, broadly construed, and aspects of narrative grammar. This work takes both theoretical and empirical directions, involving three areas of inquiry: affective dynamics, structural parallels, and attentional processes involved the analysis and cognition of temporal structures. He is also engaged in research on film music analysis and musical theme learning, having most recently presented work on leitmotifs at Music and the Moving Image. (Website coming soon)

Ongoing research collaborators...

Annika Andersson Ph.D. (Linnaeus University) collaborates on a project investigating the neurocognition of children's processing of visual narratives and language, particularly children with developmental language disorder.

Emily Coderre Ph.D. (University of Vermont) collaborates on research related to the comprehension of visual narratives and language in Autism Spectrum Disorder, including a project with Trevor Brothers (Tufts University) about predictive processing.

Tom Foulsham Ph.D. (University of Essex) collaborates on projects particularly related to the intersection of attention and visual narratives, using both eye tracking and online measures.

Joseph Magliano Ph.D. (Georgia State University) researches discourse and education, and collaborates on projects related to multimodal narrative comprehension, along with John Hutson Ph.D., Daniel Feller, and Lester Loschky Ph.D. (Kansas State University).

Mirella Manfredi Ph.D. (University of Zurich) researches the development of semantic knowledge across and between modalities.

Chris Martens Ph.D. (North Caroline State University) and Rogelio E. Cardona-Rivera Ph.D. (University of Utah) are working on implementing a computational model of visual narrative comprehension and generation.

Yen Na Yum (Hong Kong Institute of Education) collaborates on projects investigaing the effectiveness of multimodal narratives for education, particularly second language learning.