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It is our mission being accomplished. Since 1994, the BIAL Foundation has approved for funding 865 projects, involving more than 1700 researchers from 30 countries. There are three decades of support to Scientific Research Projects oriented towards the neurophysiological and mental study of the human being, in the areas of Psychophysiology and Parapsychology.

Discover the stories behind the science.

Science Stories

Do robots have to be human-like for us to trust them?

Recently published research assessed human trust when collaborating with eyed and non-eyed robots of the same type.

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What do near-death experiences and psychedelic experiences have in common?

Researchers analysed the similarities and differences between a near-death experience and the experience induced by a psychedelic drug.

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What interferes the most with our short-term memory?

Researchers performed experiments to explore the effects of changing-state vibrotactile sequences on short-term memory.

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Can childhood trauma cause insomnia in adults?

Research has shown that adverse childhood experiences result in more dysfunctional ways of shame coping and increase the severity of insomnia in adulthood.

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Near-death experiences among ICU survivors

Research with 126 patients admitted to ICU for at least 7 days reveals that 15% reported having experienced a near-death experience.

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Elderly people can improve episodic memory by neurostimulation of the cerebellum

A study demonstrated that neurostimulation of the cerebellum led to improvements in episodic memory performance in healthy elderly individuals.

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Does aging change the way we interpret face processing of emotion?

Study shows that aging may hamper the neural processing of facial expressions of emotion.

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Hypnosis, meditation, and prayer: which is most helpful for pain management?

Researchers found that a single session of hypnosis and mindfulness meditation, but not prayer, may be useful for managing acute pain.

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Does playing with parents at home make it easier for young children to adapt to preschool?

A study showed that children with higher levels of oxytocin adapt better to their preschool environment and that playing with their parents increases those levels.

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Can gratitude buffer the negative effects of stress?

Researchers found that gratitude has a unique stress-buffering effect on both reactions to and recovery from acute psychological stress.

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Do mood fluctuations impact confidence in decision-making?

Study reveals that in the healthy adult population, fluctuations of mood do not interfere with confidence in decision-making.

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Relationship between sleep bruxism, insomnia and anxiety

Researchers concluded that, although sleep bruxism has no direct association with insomnia, anxiety may act as a bridging factor between these complaints.

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News

BIAL Award in Biomedicine 2023 distinguishes pioneering research in brain cancer

A team led by researchers from the University of Heidelberg in Germany, won the BIAL Award in Biomedicine with a work focused on cancer neuroscience.

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President of the Republic honours the BIAL Foundation on its 30th anniversary

On 20th February, the President of the Republic conferred the insignia of Honorary Member of the Order of Merit upon the BIAL Foundation.

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The influence of environmental spatial references on vestibular self-motion

While navigating through the surroundings, we constantly rely on inertial vestibular signals for self-motion along with visual and acoustic spatial references from the environment. However, the interaction between inertial cues and environmental spatial references is not yet fully understood. To address this, Elisa Ferrè, principal investigator of research project 41/20 - Luminous dancing fairies in weightlessness: How gravity shapes conscious experiences, supported by the BIAL Foundation, aimed to investigate the influence of environmental visual and auditory spatial references on vestibular self-motion. A Vestibular Self-Motion Detection Task was administered to twenty-six healthy participants in which they were asked to detect brief self-motion sensations induced by low-intensity Galvanic Vestibular Stimulation (GVS). Participants performed this task either with or without a visual or acoustic spatial reference positioned directly in front of them. Results showed that the visual spatial reference increased sensitivity to detect vestibular self-motion. Conversely, the acoustic spatial reference did not influence self-motion sensitivity. This seems to suggest a specific interaction between visual and vestibular systems in self-motion perception. More information available in the paper Spatial Sensory References for Vestibular Self-Motion Perception published in the journal Multisensory Research.

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BIAL Award in Biomedicine 2023: award ceremony

The winning work of the BIAL Award in Biomedicine 2023, selected from 70 nominations, will be announced on February 20, 2024, at 6 p.m.

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The interplay between rhythm and motor skills

São Luís Castro, principal investigator of the research project 304/14 - The impact of music training on reading and mathematical abilities of normal and reading disabled children: a behavioral and neuroimaging longitudinal study, supported by the BIAL Foundation, aimed to study the interplay between rhythm and motor skills in the context of music training, at behavioral and brain levels. In a longitudinal study with children, it was explored whether the ability to perceive or reproduce rhythm (predisposition) modulates the motor improvements associated with music training, and identified brain regions implicated in the putative links between rhythm and motor learning. Fifty-seven 8-year-old children participated in a longitudinal study where they completed rhythm and motor tasks, as well as structural MRI scans before and after a 6-month music training (n= 21) or a sports program (n= 18), or no specific training (passive control group, n = 18). It was found that music training improved motor performance (and also rhythm), and that the magnitude of the improvement depended on the ability to perceive rhythm before training (i.e., better rhythm predisposition, more significant improvements). Music training also induced a loss of gray matter volume in the left cerebellum and fusiform gyrus, and volume loss correlated with higher motor gains. No such effects were found in the sports and control groups. These findings are presented in the paper Individual differences in rhythm perception modulate music‑related motor learning: a neurobehavioral training study with children published in Scientific Reports.

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How do blind individuals perceive emotional authenticity?

In the scope of the research project 148/18 - Voice perception in the visually deprived brain: Behavioral and electrophysiological insights, supported by the BIAL Foundation, the research team, led by Tatiana Conde, aimed to explore how blind individuals perceive emotional authenticity. Combining behavioural and ERP measures it was investigated authenticity perception in laughter and crying in individuals early-blind (n = 17) late-blind (n = 17), and sighted control participants (n = 51). Behaviourally, early-blind and sighted participants performed similarly well in emotional authenticity perception, but the late-blind group performed worse than sighted controls. In brain responses, all groups were sensitive to laughter authenticity at the P2 stage, and to crying authenticity at the early LPP stage. Nevertheless, only early-blind participants were sensitive to crying authenticity at the N1 and middle LPP stages, and to laughter authenticity at the early LPP stage. Furthermore, early-blind and sighted participants were more sensitive than late-blind ones to crying authenticity at the P2 and late LPP stages. Altogether, these findings suggest that prolonged visual deprivation with late-onset impairs the processing of emotional authenticity. For more information read the paper Blindness influences emotional authenticity perception in voices: Behavioral and ERP evidence published in the journal Cortex.

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Maria de Sousa Award 2024: applications are open

Applications are now open for the Maria de Sousa Award 4th edition - 2024, promoted by the Portuguese Medical Association and the BIAL Foundation.

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Nuno Grande Doctoral Scholarship 2023: applications are open

Applications are now open for the Nuno Grande Doctoral Scholarship 2023, worth €25,000. Candidates must, at the time of application submission, be enrolled in the Doctoral Program in Medical Sciences at the Abel Salazar Institute of Biomedical Sciences (ICBAS). The applications are open until January 19, 2024.

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How submovements are coordinated?

In the scope of the research project 246/20 - The hidden rhythm of interpersonal (sub-)movement coordination, supported by the BIAL Foundation, the research team led by Alice Tomassini studied the submovement coordination at an individual- and dyadic-level. Participants performed a series of bimanual tasks in coordination with a partner (dyadic task) or alone (solo task) and, in the latter case, with or without visual feedback. Data, presented in the paper The microstructure of intra- and interpersonal coordination published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, showed that distinct coordinative structures emerged at the level of submovements, as a result of feedback properties. Specifically, the relative timing of submovements (between partners/effectors) shifted from alternation to simultaneity and a mixture of both when coordination is achieved using vision (interpersonal), proprioception/efference-copy only (intrapersonal, without vision) or all information sources (intrapersonal, with vision), respectively.

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Can the brain act as a psi-inhibitory filter?

Morris Freedman’s neurobiological model suggests that the frontal lobes of the brain act as a filter to inhibit psi and implies that humans may have innate psi abilities that are suppressed by this frontal lobe filter. To test this model, the research team of the research project 210/18 - Mind-matter Interactions and the Frontal Lobes of the Brain, supported by the BIAL Foundation, used repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) to induce reversible brain lesions in the left medial middle frontal region in healthy participants. Data confirmed their a priori hypothesis, that is, healthy participants with reversible rTMS induced lesions affecting the left medial middle frontal brain region showed larger effects on a mind-matter interaction task compared to healthy participants without rTMS induced lesions. These findings support the concept that the brain serves as a filter to block psi effects and may help explain why these effects are so small and hard to replicate in healthy participants. To know more about the study, please read the paper Enhanced mind-matter interactions following rTMS induced frontal lobe inhibition, published in the journal Cortex.

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Can perceived interactions with the deceased help in the bereavement process?

Across societies, 30 to 34% of individuals is likely to experience at least one after-death communication (ADC) in their lifetime. The ADC is defined as a spontaneous phenomenon in which a living individual has a feeling or sense of direct contact with a deceased person. An ADC may occur in several forms, which include a sense of presence, sensory experiences (visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory), symbolic experiences (song on radio, flower blooming out of season, etc.), electronic experiences (telephone call, Facebook “like”, or email from the deceased, computer anomalies, etc.), visitation or message dreams. ADCs occur across cultures, race, age, socio-economic status, educational level, gender, and religious beliefs. In the scope of project 169/20 - Investigation of the Phenomenology and Impact of Spontaneous and Direct After-Death Communications (ADCs), supported by the BIAL Foundation, the research team explored the impact of perceived ADCs on bereavement, involving 70 individuals who experienced ADCs with deceased partners or spouses. The majority found the ADCs comforting (81%) and helpful in their bereavement (84%). For 49% of the participants, ADCs seemed to ease acceptance of loss and 42% confirmed an accelerated recovery due to the ADC. The implications of these findings are discussed in the article Description and impact of encounters with deceased partners or spouses published in OMEGA - Journal of Death and Dying.

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The Portuguese Medical Association and the BIAL Foundation deliver the 3rd edition of the Maria de Sousa Award

The award ceremony for the third edition of the Maria de Sousa Award took place on November 16 at Teatro Thalia, in Lisbon, and was attended by the Minister of Science, Technology and Higher Education, Elvira Fortunato, who chaired the session, the Secretary of State of Health Promotion, Margarida Tavares, and the Secretary of State for Higher Education, Pedro Teixeira. The five winners, all young researchers in health sciences, are Inês Alves (i3S, U.Porto), Nuno Dinis Alves (ICVS, U.Minho), Catarina Palma dos Reis (CHULC - Maternidade Dr. Alfredo da Costa, Lisboa), João Neto (i3S, U.Porto) and Sara Calafate (ICVS, U.Minho).

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Looking for collaboration

The quest of physiological markers for the experience of pain

Researcher: Elia Valentini - Department of Psychology & Centre for Brain Science, University of Essex Summary: The aim of this project is to improve measurement of the human experience of pain by investigating a combination of psychophysical and physiological responses during mild noxious stimulation. More specifically, we want to investigate how sensitive and specific to pain the brain oscillatory responses are. We use EEG as the main technique, but we are keen to collaborate with neuroscientists using fMRI, autonomic measures and brain stimulation as well as with computational neuroscientists. A clinical collaborator would also be very much welcome.

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EEG investigation of hypnosis and decision-making

Researcher: Rinaldo Livio Perri - University Niccolò Cusano Rome, Italy Summary: I work in the field of hypnosis and cognitive neuroscience. In particular, I adopt the event-related potentials (ERPs) to investigate the effect of the hypnotic suggestions on sensory processing and cognitive performance. I am an expert in decision-making and proactive brain processes before the stimulus administration (e.g., the perceptual, prefrontal and premotor readiness during the expectancy stage). I could help colleagues to properly analyze the ERP signal in the pre-stimulus stage of processing. Also, I would be happy to share my EEG data for re-analyzing them in the frequency domain (e.g., wavelet or coherence analysis in the hypnosis research). Feel free to contact me for any question! More information on my papers: https://scholar.google.it/citations?user=-8e_V64AAAAJ&hl=it Possible collaborations: neuroscientist with experience in the EEG frequency analysis Email: perri.rinaldo@gmail.com

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Transparent Psi Project - looking for collaborators

Summary: We are running a fully transparent, expert consensus-base multilab replication of Bem’s (2011) experiment 1. The project features state of the art methods to maximize transparency and study integrity. The study involves a computerized experiment taking about 20 minutes per session. Group testing is possible in a computer lab, no specialized equipment needed. Labs are expected to recruit at least 100 participants. Participants will be exposed to images with explicit erotic/sexual content in the experiment. No financial compensation is required for the participants. Data collection is expected to take place in the 2020 fall semester. Every material is provided for ethics/IRB submissions and data collection in English (translation of materials might be necessary by the collaborators). The study is pre-registered and the manuscript is accepted in principle for publication in the journal Royal Society Open Science. All collaborators who meet the minimum sample size criterion will get authorship on this paper reporting the results of the replication study. More information in the preprint: https://psyarxiv.com/uwk7y/ Indicate interest in the collaboration via the following form: https://tinyurl.com/tpp-labs With any question contact the lead investigator: Dr. Zoltan Kekecs, kekecs.zoltan@gmail.com

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Cognitive control and learning

Researcher: Ignacio Obeso, Ph.D. / CINAC - HM Puerta del Sur Summary: The aim of our projects is to understand the behavioral and neural mechanisms used to learn how humans establish adaptive behaviour in changing contexts. More specifically, we want to decipher how stopping abilities are initially learned and later executed under automatic control. We use task-related fMRI, brain stimulation and clinical models to test our predictions in laboratory settings as well as online home-based paradigms. Possible collaborations: computational scientist Email contact: i.obesomartin@gmail.com https://iobesomartin.wixsite.com/cognitivecontrol

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