ERC starting grants

Professor Siri Leknes

Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology

Project: OPIOIDREWARD: How distress alters opioid drug effects and abuse liability

 

Summary

Duration: Start date 2019-07-01, End date 2024-06-30

Call: SH4, ERC-2018-StG

Summary:  As the opioid epidemic escalates, we must ask: why are opioids so addictive? Non-human animal research links addiction with the powerful relief opioids can offer to animals in distress. In humans, epidemiological and clinical studies converge upon social stressors and a poor social support network as key risk factors for addiction. Despite this, it is currently unknown how pre-drug distress might alter opioid drug effects. Tremendous resources are dedicated to charting how people feel after taking a drug, sidestepping the potentially profound influence of how people feel before they take the drug. Here, I will turn the current approach on its head. Using acute social distress induction before morphine administration in healthy humans, I will create a human model to determine the psychological, physiological and brain underpinnings of how social stressors increase opioids’ abuse liability. First, I will test the hypothesis that pre-drug distress enhances drug wanting (self-administration) but not drug liking (selfreport) compared to drug effects in a control condition. Second, I will use opioid blockade to confirm or falsify the hypothesis that opioid drugs ‘hijack’ brain mechanisms underpinning social support. Third, I will determine to what extent opioid drug effects are dopamine-dependent by blocking dopamine before morphine administration. I will also apply computational modelling and functional imaging to elucidate the underlying brain mechanisms. Thus, the proposal offers a powerful new methodology for resolving hotly debated questions on the independent contributions of opioids and dopamine for reward and abuse liability. In sum, the project aims to achieve a breakthrough in our understanding of how a pre-drug social distress state can alter
opioid drug mechanisms. The mechanistic understanding arising from this project could have profound implications for science, as well as for clinical care and new policies designed to contain the opioid epidemic.

Associate professor Lars Tjelta Westlye

Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology

Project: BRAINMINT: Brains and minds in transition: The dark side of neuroplasticity during sensitive life phases

 

Summary

Duration: Start date 2019-08-01, End date 2024-07-31

Call: SH4, ERC-2018-StG

Summary:  The potential and boundaries of the human mind is determined by dynamic interactions between the environment and the individual genetic architecture. However, despite several breakthroughs, the genetic revolution has not provided a coherent account of the development of the mind and its disorders, and the missing heritability is large across human traits. One explanation of this impasse is the complexity of the gene-environment interactions. Current knowledge about the determinants of a healthy mind is largely based on studies whose modus operandi is to treat the environment as a static entity, neglecting to consider the crucial fact that environmental inputs and their genetic interactions vary dramatically between life phases. The objective of BRAINMINT is to provide this missing link by zeroing in on two major life transitions, namely adolescence and pregnancy. These phases are characterized by temporarily increased brain plasticity, offering windows for adaptation and growth, but also host the emergence of common mental disorders. I propose that a multi-level investigation with this dark side of brain plasticity as the axis mundi will add a mechanistic understanding of this link between growth and vulnerability. I will test the main hypothesis that mechanisms that boost neuroplasticity promote adaptation to a dynamic
environment, but at the cost of increased risk of psychopathology if exposed to a combination of genetic and environmental triggers. To this end I will utilize cutting-edge longitudinal brain imaging, electrophysiology, rich cognitive and clinical data, immune markers, gene expression and genetics. I will leverage on massive imaging data (n>40,000) and novel tools to increase power and generalizability and improve brain- and gene-based predictions of complex traits. Aiming to help resolving one of the modern day enigmas, BRAINMINT is a pioneering and high risk/high gain effort to find mechanisms of brain plasticity that support and harm the brain.

Associate professor Aike Peter Rots

Faculty of Humanities, Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages

Project: WhoP: Whales of Power: Aquatic Mammals, Devotional Practices, and Environmental Change in Maritime East Asia

 

Summary

Duration: Start date 2019-01-01, End date 2023-12-31

Call: SH3, ERC-2018-StG

Summary:  In various parts of East Asia, aquatic mammals are associated with divine power, and serve as objects of devotion. In South and central Vietnam, cetaceans are worshipped as life-saving deities. In some Japanese coastal areas, the spirits of whales are venerated during ritual ceremonies. In China, Cambodia and the Ryukyu Islands, aquatic mammals have all been associated with water deities. These animals continue to carry significant symbolic capital today – if no longer as gods, at least as local “heritage” and symbols of nature conservation, acquiring new meanings in the context of secularisation, (forced) displacement, and environmental degradation. Whales of Power is concerned with the comparative study of human-cetacean relations in maritime East Asia, as expressed in popular worship practices and beliefs. We will examine several of these traditions in different parts of the region, through a combination of historical and ethnographic research. Our main hypothesis is that changes in local worship traditions reflect changes in human-nature relations, which are caused by wider social, economic and environmental developments. Thus, marine mammals and associated worship practices serve as a prism, through which we approach human responses to socio-economic and environmental change in Asian coastal communities. The innovative character of Whales of Power lies in the ways in which it combines state-of-the-art theoretical approaches from different disciplinary backgrounds in order to reach new understandings of the ways in which human-nature-god relations reflect social and environmental changes. It has three important theoretical objectives: 1) apply recent theoretical developments associated with “environmental humanities” to the comparative study of popular religion; 2) reconsider the role of local worship traditions in the Asian Secular Age, examining the new meanings attributed to ritual practices; and 3) establish a new comparative paradigm in Asian studies.

Researcher Johannes Espolin Rokstad Hov

Faculty of Medicine, Institute of Clinical Medicine

Project: StopAutoimmunity: Recurrent disease in the liver transplant: window to identify and stop gut signals driving autoimmunity

 

Summary

Duration: Start date 2019-04-01, End date 2023-03-31

Call: LS7, ERC-2018-StG

Summary: Autoimmune disease is an increasing health concern. These diseases are strongly associated with altered gut microbiome. When immunosuppression fails there is little to offer in terms of therapy. In this project, I hypothesize that gut signals (microbial factors from the intestine) unaffected by immunosuppression are key drivers of autoimmune diseases. I propose to use recurrent autoimmune disease after organ transplantation as a human disease model to identify and stop these gut signals, providing a novel approach to close the gap between basic microbiome research and patient care in autoimmune diseases.
To identify autoimmunity-related gut signals, I will use patients with primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), an inflammatory disease of the bile ducts. PSC is a common indication for liver transplantation, but after transplantation there is high risk of recurrent PSC (rPSC). I recently showed that the PSC gut microbiome has low diversity and identified microbial metabolites associated with severe PSC. Preliminary data show that the post-transplant gut is even less diverse, suggesting that microbial factors drive autoimmunity. In this project I will identify gut signals by in-depth investigation of gut bacterial genes and circulating metabolites in the blood. The outcome will be diagnostic and prognostic markers overlapping in PSC and rPSC, defined by changes in gut bacterial genes and concentrations of bacterial metabolites in the blood. Next, I will investigate if common drugs or interventions influence the identified autoimmunity-related gut signals. By generating a library of interventions influencing the gut microbiome it will be possible to select promising candidates for pilot treatment trials after liver transplantation. The outcome of StopAutoimmunity will be gut signals useful as novel biomarkers and treatment targets. These may directly translate into improved patient care but also provide a foundation for understanding the mechanisms of autoimmunity.

Associate professor Paolo Giovanni Piaquadio

Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Economics

Project: VALURED: Value Judgments and Redistribution Policies

 

Summary

Duration: Start date 2019-01-01, End date 2023-12-31

Call: SH1, ERC-2018-StG

Summary: Heterogeneity and diversity are a pervasive aspect of modern societies. Differences in individuals’ preferences, needs, skills, and information are key to explain variation in individuals’ behavior and to anticipate individuals’ responses to policy changes. There is no consensus, however, about how to take these differences into account when evaluating policies. 
Project VALURED will reexamine this ethical challenge by characterizing the mapping between value judgments—i.e. principles of distributive justice—and redistribution policies. This mapping is tremendously important for welfare analysis and policy design. First, it associates the most desirable policy to each set of value judgments, providing an “ethical menu” to policy design. Second, it gives an ethical identity of each policy proposal, that is, it identifies the value judgments a policymaker endorses when proposing a specific policy. 
The main objectives of VALURED are to:1) identify transparent and compelling value judgments that accommodate heterogeneity and diversity; 2) show the implications of these value judgments for the evaluation and design of redistribution policies;  3) characterize welfare criteria that respect individuals’ preferences and account for individuals’ differences in needs, skills, and information;  4) provide new insights for the design of income, capital, and inheritance taxation;  5) develop simple formulas that express optimal policies as a function of observable heterogeneity and ethical parameters. 
Project VALURED combines welfare economics with public economics. The first part deals with income taxation and addresses the ethical challenges related to individuals’ heterogeneity in preferences, needs, and skills. The second part focuses on capital taxation and addresses individuals’ differences in risk preferences and information. The third part analyses the design of inheritance taxation and addresses the social concerns for intergenerational and intragenerational equity.

Researcher Heidi Østbø Haugen

Faculty of Humanities, Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages

Project: BROKEX: Brokering China’s Extraversion: An Ethnographic Analysis of Transnational Arbitration

 

Summary

Duration: Start date 2019-01-01, End date 2023-12-31

Call: SH2, ERC-2018-StG

Summary: Chinese global engagements are deepening across sectors and geographic regions. The objective of BROKEX is to fill specific gaps in knowledge about how China’s extraversion advances. The project takes an original approach by examining brokers who mediate in transnational fields. It opens the “black box” of China’s global integration by moving beyond descriptions of input and output characteristics to elucidate underlying dynamics. The objective will be achieved in two phases. First, the PI and two postdoctoral researchers will carry out three ethnographic case studies that yield complementary information on the common challenge of brokering across geographic scales: (1) Connecting low-cost Chinese manufacturing with African markets; (2) Integrating Chinese academic research with global scientific communities; (3) Attracting new foreign investments to China to underpin industrial upgrading. The diverse cases offer insights into the mechanisms of brokerage across distinctive sectors. The team will collect data the morphology of social networks as its starting point, and focuses on how actors positioned at the intersection between groups operate. BROKEX adopts an innovative approach by examining how actors strategically seek to shape network morphologies in order to bridge gaps between groups. By directing theoretical attention towards relationship formation that precedes acts of brokerage, this line of inquiry advances understandings of how and why brokered connections emerge. Ethnographic case studies combined with critical theorization will generate new knowledge about the processes beneath the “rise of China” ─ one of the most consequential socioeconomic developments of our times.
in the Pearl River Delta, South China, while based at Sun Yat-sen University, with which the PI has longstanding collaboration. In the second step, we build on the empirical findings and extant literature to develop brokerage theory. Social scientific research on brokerage commonly uses the morphology of social networks as its starting point, and focuses on how actors positioned at the intersection between groups operate. BROKEX adopts an innovative approach by examining how actors strategically seek to shape network morphologies in order to bridge gaps between groups. By directing theoretical attention towards relationship formation that precedes acts of brokerage, this line of inquiry advances understandings of how and why brokered connections emerge. Ethnographic case studies combined with critical theorization will generate new knowledge about the processes beneath the “rise of China” ─ one of the most consequential socioeconomic developments of our times.

Associate professor Trude Storelvmo

Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, Department of Geosciences

Project: MC2: Mixed-phase clouds and climate (MC2) – from process-level understanding to large-scale impacts

 

Summary

Duration: Start date 2018-03-01, End date 2023-02-28

Call: PE10, ERC-2017-StG

Summary:

The importance of mixed-phase clouds (i.e. clouds in which liquid and ice may co-exist) for weather and climate has become increasingly evident in recent years. We now know that a majority of the precipitation reaching Earth’s surface originates from mixed-phase clouds, and the way cloud phase changes under global warming has emerged as a critically important climate feedback. Atmospheric aerosols may also have affected climate via mixed-phase clouds, but the magnitude and even sign of this effect is currently unknown. Satellite observations have recently revealed that cloud phase is misrepresented in global climate models (GCMs), suggesting systematic GCM biases in precipitation formation and cloud-climate feedbacks. Such biases give us reason to doubt GCM projections of the climate response to CO2 increases, or to changing atmospheric aerosol loadings. This proposal seeks to address the above issues, through a multi-angle and multi-tool approach: (i) By conducting field measurements of cloud phase at mid- and high latitudes, we seek to identify the small-scale structure of mixed-phase clouds. (ii) Large-eddy simulations will then be employed to identify the underlying physics responsible for the observed structures, and the field measurements will provide case studies for regional cloud- resolving modelling in order to test and revise state-of-the-art cloud microphysics parameterizations. (iii) GCMs, With revised microphysics parameterizations, will be confronted with cloud phase constraints available from space. (iv) Finally, the same GCMs will be used to re-evaluate the climate impact of mixed-phase clouds in terms of their contribution to climate forcings and feedbacks. Through this synergistic combination of tools for a multi-scale study of mixed-phase clouds, the proposed research has the potential to bring the field of climate science forward, from improved process-Level understanding at small scales, to better climate change predictions on the global scale.

Associate professor Ruth Jane Prince

Faculty of Medicine, Institute of Health and Society

Project: UNIVERSAL HEALTH: Engaged Universals: Ethnographic explorations of ‘Universal Health Coverage’ and the public good in Africa

 

Summary

Duration: Start date 2018-04-01, End date 2023-03-31

Call: SH2, ERC-2017-StG

Summary: UNIVERSAL HEALTH is an anthropological study that follows how a new global policy, Universal Health Coverage (UHC), travels and is engaged by policy-makers, bureaucrats and citizens in three African countries. Defined by the WHO as ensuring that all people can use the health services they need without financial hardship, UHC is a powerful concept that approaches public health as a matter of justice and obligation and is included in the Sustainable Development Goals. UHC is particularly important in Africa, where structural-adjustment policies undermined state capacity, promoted privatization and pushed the burden of payment onto the poor. Recent global health initiatives have done little to address the neglect of national health-care systems and citizens’ lack of trust in them. In these contexts UHC is interesting because it reinserts questions of state responsibility and the public good into health-care. Historically however, African states have only partially pursued the public good, while in practice UHC is surrounding by conflicting interests. UHC is thus not a universal model but a contested field, making it an intriguing site for anthropological research. With a focus on actors and institutions at global, national and local levels in each country, the project will explore how moves towards UHC engage relations between states and citizens and universal concepts such as the public good; how UHC intersects with formal systems of social protection; and how it influences informal social networks that support health, thus situating UHC in national histories and social practices. Tracking the frictions surrounding UHC at the levels of policy-making, implementation, among beneficiaries, and in public debate, the project will use ethnographic methodology in innovative ways through fieldwork that is multi-sited and multi-level. The project’s focus on a global policy and the public good opens new research directions and will produce knowledge of relevance beyond Africa.

 

Professor Andreas Moxnes

Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Economics

Project: GLOBALPROD: The Global and Local Organization of Production


 

Summary

Duration: Start date 2017-01-01, End date 2021-12-31

Call: SH1, ERC-2016-StG

Summary: A defining feature of the global economy is the gradual fragmentation of production across firms and borders, a phenomenon that has been termed outsourcing or global value Chains. State-of-the-art empirical economic analysis on value chains has mostly been limited to the study of aggregate data because there is limited data on actual firm-to-firm linkages in the global economy. Even less is currently known about which products are typically outsourced, and which workers are affected. This project will change that. I will bring together four unique firm-to-firm datasets on local and global value chains that will push the research frontier forward in two main directions: - Previous research has shown that economic integration encourages growth. Due to data limitations, however, we know little about the origins of growth, and to what extent the emergence of value chains can explain the growth response. New theory is needed, where firm-to-firm connections are endogenously formed in response to economic integration. I will confront theory with data and directly test whether integration facilitates new buyer-supplier relationships and Growth. - Previous research has found that economic integration has large negative effects on wages for low-skill workers. But again, due to data limitations, it is unclear to what extent value chains are responsible for this. Simply put, the impact of outsourcing on wages will depend on which workers are displaced by outsourcing. Until now, researchers have not been able to observe which workers, along with their occupations and skills, that are employed in both the supplying and outsourcing firm. For the first time, this information will be available, allowing for a rich analysis of labor market effects for different skill Groups.

Researcher Florian Diekert

Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis

Project: NATCOOP: How nature affects cooperation in common pool resource systems

 

Summary

Duration: Start date: 2016-08-01, End date: 2021-01-31

Call: SH3, ERC-StG-2015

Summary: The constraints and dynamics set by nature have a deep and significant impact on economic fundamentals and the ability to successfully manage renewable resources. This can be taken into account to formulate effective policies. However, the causal pathway from the natural to the social environment and its feedback for sustainable resource use is often overlooked, not the least because preferences and incentives are traditionally viewed as being stable and fixed. Yet, it is high time to take this new perspective: Social-ecological systems around the globe are under mounting stress and common pool resources are vital, in particular in developing countries. This project aims to establish how nature shapes preferences and incentives of economic agents and how this in turn affects common-pool resource management. To this end, I investigate three mechanisms: (A) how tipping points and thresholds in the natural system may encourage cooperation; (B) how the volatility of resource abundance influences risk preferences and how this in turn affects community-based management; and (C) how leadership, which is closely linked to risk preferences, interacts with the natural environment to foster cooperation that overcomes common-pool dilemmas. NATCOOP's bold agenda pushes the frontier of economics and sustainability science. Not only the investigation of the feedbacks between nature and cooperation from a new angle, also the scale and scope of the project -- combining cases from different socio-economic and ecological setting at Three continents with theoretical and statistical work -- will generate new knowledge and be highly rewarding. Though challenging, I am confident that my background in economics and ecology puts me in an ideal position to achieve this important task. My ultimate goal is to identify circumstances in which natural preconditions and the social setting may og hand in hand to promote the sustainable use of renewable Resources.

Associate professor Koen Vervaeke

Faculty of Medicine, Institute of Basic Medical Sciences

Project: SurfaceInhibition: the role of 5HT3a inhibitory interneurons in sensory Processing

 

Summary

Duration: Start date: 2015-10-01, End date: 2020-03-31

Call: LS5, ERC-StG-2014

Summary: How do cortical circuits process sensory stimuli that leads to perception? Sensory input is encoded by complex interactions between principal excitatory neurons and a diverse population of inhibitory cells. Distinct inhibitory neurons control different subcellular domains of target principal neurons, suggesting specific roles of different cells during sensory processing. However, the individual contribution of these inhibitory subtypes to sensory processing remains poorly understood. This is mainly due to the technical challenges of recording the activity of identified cell types in-vivo, in response to quantified sensory stimuli. Therefore, I propose a novel approach based on four pillars: 1) An optically accessible circuit in the superficial layers of the cortex, comprised of inhibitory cells expressing the serotonin receptor 5HT3a, and the distal dendrites of pyramidal neurons. 2) A novel combination of electrophysiology and 3D two-photon imaging to simultaneously record the activity of morphologically identified 5HT3a cells and their dendritic targets. 3) A head-fixed perceptual decision task, whereby mice use their whiskers to determine the location of an object, allowing an accurate description of the sensory timulus. 4) The integration of experimental data and computer models to gain mechanistic insights into circuit functions. The 5HT3a cells and the distal dendrites of pyramidal neurons receive ‘top-down’ contextual information from other cortical areas that is essential for constructing meaningful perceptions of sensory stimuli. Thus I hypothesize that 5HT3a cells influence sensory perceptions by controlling the excitability of the pyramidal cell distal dendrites that integrate top-down and sensory input. Thus, I will not only reveal novel functions of inhibitory neurons, I will also shed light on how top-down and sensory input is integrated, and I will provide novel methods to test the functions of other cell types in normal mice and disease models.

Professor Hedvig Nordeng

Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, Department of Pharmacy

Project: DrugsInPregnancy: Effects of Medication Use in Pregnancy on Infant Neurodevelopment

 

Summary

Duration: Start date: 2015-09-01, End date: 2020-08-31

Call: LS7, ERC-2014-StG

Summary: Currently, thousands of pregnant women in the EU and worldwide are being increasingly prescribed medications for which we do not have sufficient information on fetal safety. I hypothesize that our current understanding of safety pharmacology is oversimplified and that medication prescribed during pregnancy may play an unrecognized role in the development of neurodevelopmental disorders. In this research proposal we have the unique opportunity to use a large population-based birth cohort including over 100 000 mother-child pairs and biological data to study how medications may act on the offspring. This offers novel and innovative pharmaceutical insight into the safety of medications. By linking several nationwide registries (National Prescription Data Base, Norwegian Patient Registry, Medical Birth Registry) to a population-based birth cohort (n=108 000) we specifically aim to 1) estimate the effect of prenatal exposure to psychotropics and analgesics on neurodevelopment in young children using a range of methodological approaches to strengthen causal inference. With these data made available, we will 2) determine whether fetal exposure to specific medications results in epigenetic events (i.e. changes in DNA methylation) in the child, and 3) determine whether such changes increase the risks of neurodevelopmental disorders in childhood. The recent availability of large scale human data, possibility of register linkages and genome-wide mapping of DNA methylation at affordable costs makes this research proposal now possible. The size and richness of data including over hundred thousand pregnancies and existence of biological material makes this project unique. The final outcome will be fundamentally new knowledge about how medications affect the developing unborn child and will open up new horizons and opportunities for future research in a new field of “pharmaco-epigenetics” and enhance our understanding of origins of neurodevelopmental disorders.

Professor Kristin Aasdal

Faculty of Social Sciences, Centre for Technology, Innovation and Culture

Project: LITTLE TOOLS: Enacting the Good Economy: Biocapitalization and the little tools of valuation

 

Summary

Duration: Start date: 2015-09-01, End date: 2020-08-31

Call: SH2, ERC-2014-StG

Summary: What shall we live off in the future? Where will our food come from, and what will form the basis for our economies? A so-called “blue revolution”, where fish become farmed rather than caught, is increasingly presented as an answer to the above questions. This transformation of the economy exemplifies ongoing efforts to produce new forms of Capital out of the ordering and reordering of life. These processes are intimately related to the expanding life sciences, the bioeconomy and what is sometimes called new forms of biocapital.But how do such large transformations take Place in actual practice, and by which means? This project argues that if we are to understand such major transformations we need to study “little tools”, that is, material-semiotic entities that carefully modify and work upon bodies, markets and science.Emerging bioeconomies are expected not only to produce economic value but also to enact values in other ways that contribute to what this project refers to as “the good economy”. Such values include enabling sustainable fisheries, secure animal welfare or sustainable growth.The main hypothesis of the current project is that the enactment of the good economy can be studied by valuation practices performed by material-semiotic little tools. The project will explore this hypothesis at multiple sites for biocapitalization: science, the market, policy and funding institutions. This project will focus on how these interact and encounter one another. The aim is twofold: first, to provide new empirical insights about how biocapitalization processes are enacted in practice and at strategic sites, using cross-disciplinary methods from actor-network theory, the humanities and economic sociology; second to contribute analytically and methodologically to the field of Science and Technology Studies (STS) by drawing on resources from economic sociology and the humanities in order to provide an analytical framework for comprehending biocapitalization practices.

Researcher Simen Kvaal

Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, Department of Chemistry

Project: BIVAQUM: Bivariational Approximations in Quantum Mechanics and Applications to Quantum Chemistry

 

Summary

Duration: Start date: 2015-04-01, End date: 2020-03-31

Call: ERC-StG-2014

Summary: The standard variational principles (VPs) are cornerstones of quantum mechanics, and one can hardly overestimate their usefulness as tools for generating approximations to the time-independent and time-dependent Schröodinger equations. The aim of the proposal is to study and apply a generalization of these,
the bivariational principles (BIVPs), which arise naturally when one does not assume a priori that the system Hamiltonian is Hermitian.

This unconventional approach may have transformative impact on development of ab initiomethodology, both for electronic structure and dynamics. The first objective is to establish the mathematical foundation for the BIVPs. This opens up a whole new axis of method development for ab initio approaches. For instance, it is a largely ignored fact that the popular traditional coupled cluster (TCC) method can be neatly formulated with the BIVPs, and TCC is both polynomially scaling With the number of electrons and size-consistent. No “variational” method enjoys these properties simultaneously, indeed this seems to be incompatible with the standard VPs.

Armed with the BIVPs, the project aims to develop new and understand existing ab initio methods. The second objective is thus a systematic multireference coupled cluster theory (MRCC) based on the BIVPs. This is in itself a novel approach that carries large potential benefits and impact. The third and last objective is an implementation of a new coupled-cluster type method where the orbitals are bivariational parameters. This gives a size-consistent hierarchy of approximations to multiconfiguration Hartree--Fock.

Researcher Ann-Cecilie Larsen

Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, Department of Physics

Project: gRESONANT: Resonant Nuclear Gamma Decay and the Heavy-Element Nucleosynthesis

 

Summary

Duration: Start date: 2015-03-01, End date: 2020-02-28

Call: PE2, ERC-StG-2014

Summary: THE GRAND CHALLENGE: The “Holy Grail” of nuclear astrophysics is to understand the astrophysical processes responsible for the formation of the elements. A particularly challenging part is the description of the heavy-element nucleosynthesis. The only way to build the majority of these heavy nuclides is via neutron-capture processes. Unaccounted-for nuclear structure effects may drastically change these rates.
MAIN HYPOTHESIS: Nuclear low-energy gamma-decay resonances at high excitation energies will enhance the astrophysical neutron-capture reaction rates.
NOVEL APPROACH: This proposal is, for the first time, addressing the M1 scissors resonance in deformed, neutron-rich nuclei and superheavy elements. A new experimental technique will be developed to determine the electromagnetic nature of the unexpected upbend enhancement. Further, s-process branch points for the Re-Os cosmochronology will be studied for the first time with the Oslo method.
OBJECTIVES:
1) Measure s-process branch point nuclei with the Oslo method
2) Radioactive-beam experiments for neutron-rich nuclei searching for the low-energy upbend and the M1 scissors resonance
3) Develop new experimental technique to identify the upbend’s electromagnetic nature
4) Superheavy-element experiments looking for the M1 scissors resonance
POTENTIAL IMPACT IN THE RESEARCH FIELD: This proposal will trigger a new direction of research, as there are no data on the lowenergy gamma resonances neither on neutron-rich nor superheavy nuclei. Their presence may have profound implications for the astrophysical neutron-capture rates. Developing a new experimental technique to determine the electromagnetic character of the upbend is crucial to distinguish between two competing explanations of this phenomenon. Unknown neutron-capture cross sections will be estimated with a much better precision than prior to this project, and lead to a major leap forward in the field of Nuclear astrophysics.

Professor Kristine Beate Walhovd

Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology

Project: NEUROCOGPLASTICITY: Neurocognitive Plasticity Lifespan Mechanisms of Change

 

Summary

Duration: Start date: 2013-03-01, End date: 2018-02-28

Call: SH4, ERC-2012-StG

Summary: Human brains and cognitive functioning are in a constant flux of change throughout life. The question is: can you decide to what extent your brain and cognition will change, and how? This has enormous implications - it is a question of by which mechanisms humans can adapt to their changing environments with changing minds. And it is a question of how to handle the frequent cognitive problems experienced by especially elderly adults. Research has yielded astonishingly different perspectives on cognitive and brain changes through life. On the one hand, studies point to brain development and aging being under genetic control. On the other hand, there are associations between intellectual and physical experiences and cognitive function across the lifespan, and recent studies show that brain and cognition are improved by targeted cognitive interventions. However, the time course, stability, generalizability and restrictions to training effects on brain and cognition are largely unknown. The aim of this proposal is to uncover mechanisms governing neurocognitive plasticity - its potential, restrictions and time course - in young and old age, and reconcile the apparent contradiction between genetic control and environmental impact. I will study the effects of memory training with repeated Magnetic Resonance Imaging and cognitive tests in a new experimental time-series cross-over design with 200 young (20-30 yrs of age) and 200 elderly (70-80 yrs of age) adults. Neurocognitive changes in controls not training are compared to those in participants undergoing alternate repeated periods of memory training and rest (A-B-A-B) for one year, with a three-year follow up. This will allow me to identify 1) distinct modulators of plastic changes in terms of age, neural integrity, and genotype, 2) the time course of plastic changes in brain and cognition, their stability across short and long time, and 3) the extent of transfer of memory training effects to other cognitive functions.

Professor Sergey Neshveyev

Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, Department of Mathematics

Project: NCGQG: Noncommutative geometry and quantum group


 

Summary

Duration: Start date: 2013-01-01, End date: 2017-12-31

Call: PE1, ERC-2012-StG

Summary: The goal of the project is to make fundamental contributions to the study of quantum groups in the operator algebraic setting. Two main directions it aims to explore are non-commutative differential geometry and boundary theory of quantum random walks. The idea behind non-commutative geometry is to bring geometric insight to the study of non-commutative algebras and to analyse spaces which are beyond the reach via classical means. It has been particularly successful in the latter, for example, in the study of the spaces of leaves of foliations. Quantum groups supply plenty of examples of non-commutative algebras, but the question how they fit into non-commutative geometry remains complicated. A successful union of these two areas is important for testing ideas of non-commutative geometry and for its development in new directions. One of the main goals of the project is to use the momentum created by our recent work in the area in order to further expand the boundaries of our understanding. Specifically, we are going to study such problems as the local index formula, equivariance of Dirac operators with respect to the dual group action (with an eye towards the Baum-Connes conjecture for discrete quantum groups), construction of Dirac operators on quantum homogeneous spaces, structure of quantized C*-algebras of continuous functions, computation of dual cohomology of compact quantum groups. The boundary theory of quantum random walks was created around ten years ago. In the recent years there has been a lot of progress on the measure-theoretic side of the theory, while the questions largely remain open on the topological side. A significant progress in this area can have a great influence on understanding of quantum groups, construction of new examples and development of quantum probability. The main problems we are going to study are boundary convergence of quantum random walks and computation of Martin boundaries. Read more about the project.

Researcher Adriano Mazzini

Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, Center for Earth Evolution and Dynamics

Project: LUSI LAB: Lusi: a unique natural laboratory for multidisciplinary studies of focussed fluid flow in sedimentary basins

 

Summary

Duration: Start date: 2013-01-01, End date: 2017-12-31

Call: PE10, ERC-2012-StG

Summary: The 29th of May 2006 several gas and mud eruption sites suddenly appeared along a fault in the NE of Java, Indonesia. Within weeks several villages were submerged by boiling mud. The most prominent eruption site was named Lusi. To date Lusi is still active and has forced 50.000 people to be evacuated and an area of more than 7 km2 is covered by mud. The social impact of the eruption and its spectacular dimensions still attract the attention of international media. Since 2006 I have completed four expeditions to Indonesia and initiated quantitative and experimental studies leading to the publication of two papers focussing on the plumbing system and the mechanisms of the Lusi eruption. However still many unanswered questions remain. What lies beneath Lusi? Is Lusi a mud volcano or part of a larger hydrothermal system? What are the mechanisms triggering the eruption? How long will the eruption last? LUSI LAB is an ambitious project that aims to answer these questions and to perform a multidisciplinary study using Lusi as a unique natural laboratory. Due to its relatively easy accessibility, the geological setting, and the vast scale, the Lusi eruption represents an unprecedented opportunity to study and learn from an ongoing active eruptive system. The results will be crucial for understanding focused fluid flow systems in other sedimentary basins world-wide, and to unravel issues related to geohazards and palaeoclimate aspects. The project will use multisensory sampling devices within the active feeder channel and a remote-controlled raft and flying device to access and sample the crater and the erupted gases. UV-gas camera imaging to measure the rate and composition of the erupted gases will be coupled with a network of seismometers to evaluate the impact that seismicity, local faulting and the neighbouring Arjuno-Welirang volcanic complex have on the long-lasting Lusi activity. This information will provide robust constraints to model the pulsating Lusi behavior.

Professor Bård Harstad

Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Economics

Project: GINE: General Institutional Equilibrium - theory and policy implications


 

Summary

Duration: Start date: 2012-07-01, End date: 2016-06-30

Call: SH1, ERC-2011-StG

Summary: Existing institutional theory, including political economics and contract theory, convincingly show that institutional details have large impacts on economic and policy outcomes. Once this is recognized, it follows that contracts should depend on the organisational design of the institution to which the contract is offered. Stage 1 of Project Gine aims at characterising optimal contracts as a function of this design. Stage 2 develops a framework for endogenising and characterising the optimal institutional design. At Stage 3, sets of institutions are endogenised at the same time, where the design of one is an optimal response to the designs of the others. This outcome is referred to as a general institutional equilibrium. Such a theory or methodological framework has several immensely important applications. Development aid contracts should carefully account for the political structure in the recipient country; otherwise the effect of aid may surprise and be counterproductive. The major application motivating this study, however, is environmental policy. Not only must the optimal environmental policy be conditioned on political economy forces; it must also be a function of institutional details, such as the political system. This can explain why the choice of instrument differs across political systems, and why politicians often prefer standards rather than economic instruments. Furthermore, we still do not have a good knowledge of how to design effective and implementable international environmental treaties. The optimal treaty design as well as the best choice of policy instrument must take into account that certain institutions (e.g., interest groups, firm structures, and perhaps even local governance) respond endogenously to these policies.

Professor Anders Martin Fjell

Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology

Project: CONSTRUCTIVEMEM: Emergence and decline of constructive memory Life-span changes in a common brain network for imagination and episodic memory

 

Summary

Duration: Start date: 2012-02-01, End date: 2017-01-31

Call: SH4, ERC-2011-StG

Summary: The creation of personal, episodic memory from a previous experience is a remarkably complex process, which substantially differs from the processes leading to non-personal knowledge and memory about the world, so-called semantic memory. The act of remembering an episodic event is as much an act of creation as an act of reproduction. Modality-specific memory items are assembled through a re-construction process that allows us to re-experience the episode in rich details. Recent research has shown that recall of episodes and imagination of the future depends on a common core brain network. Early damage to this network will dramatically affect the development of personal memories, effectively preventing the creation of a vivid personal past, while leaving general cognitive development relatively intact. Still, no attempts have been made to study how development and subsequent aging of constructive memory, the arguably most relevant form of memory for daily life-function, is determined by structural and functional properties of the brain. I propose to study how characteristics of the brain determine the development of the ability to form episodic memories in childhood, and how the same factors contribute to the decline in episodic memory function experienced by most healthy elderly. The aim of the current proposal is to understand how maturation and aging of the brain networks for reconstructive memory impacts the ability to form and re-experience ones past. To address this aim, we will study children (4-10 years), adolescents (11-19 years), young adults (20-30 years) and elderly (60-80 years), 100 participants in each group, with repeated cognitive testing and brain scanning with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The children will be examined annually, yielding four examinations, while the other participants will be examined bi-annually, yielding to examinations within the project period.

Professor Snorre Harald Christiansen

Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, Department of Mathematics

Project: STUCCOFIELDS: Structure and scaling in computational field theories


 

Summary

Duration: Start date: 2012-01-01, End date: 2016-12-31

Call: PE1, ERC-2011-StG

Summary: The numerical simulations that are used in science and industry require ever more sophisticated mathematics. For the partial differential equations that are used to model physical processes, qualitative properties such as conserved quantities and monotonicity are crucial for well-posedness. Mimicking them in the discretizations seems equally important to get reliable results. This project will contribute to the interplay of geometry and numerical analysis by bridging the gap between Lie group based techniques and finite elements. The role of Lie algebra valued differential forms will be highlighted. One aim is to develop construction techniques for complexes of finite element spaces incorporating special functions adapted to singular perturbations. Another is to marry finite elements with holonomy based discretizations used in mathematical physics, such as the Lattice Gauge Theory of particle physics and the Regge calculus of general relativity. Stability and convergence of algorithms will be related to differential geometric properties, and the interface between numerical analysis and quantum field theory will be explored. The techniques will be applied to the simulation of mechanics of complex materials and light-matter interactions.

Professor Hugo Lundhaug

Faculty of Theology

Project: NEWCONT: New Contexts for Old Texts: Unorthodox Texts and Monastic Manuscript Culture in Fourth- and Fifth-Century Egypt

 

Summary

Duration: Start date: 2012-01-01, End date: 2016-12-31

Call:  SH5, ERC-2011-StG

Summary: Using recently accessible Coptic monastic texts, new philology, and cognitive theories of literature and memory, this project aims to shed important new light on the production and use of some of the most enigmatic manuscripts discovered during the last century, namely the Nag Hammadi codices, together with the highly similar Berlin, Bruce, Askew, and Tchacos codices. This will be done by interpreting the contents of the codices as they are preserved to us in their Coptic versions primarily within the context of fourth- and fifth-century Egyptian monasticism and contemporary Coptic texts. This approach constitutes a decisive shift away from interpretations of the hypothetical Greek originals of this material within hypothetical first, second, or third century contexts all over the Mediterranean world, to a focus on the context of the production and use of the texts as they have been preserved in actual manuscripts. The project will approach the material from a New Philology perspective on manuscript culture, implying a focus on the users and producers of the extant manuscripts, and on textual variants, rewriting, and paratextual features as important clues. From this point of view, the project will also employ cognitive theories of literature and memory in order to illuminate early monastic attitudes towards books, canonicity, and doctrinal diversity in the context of monastic literary practices of copying, writing, memorization, and recitation, and the interfaces between orality and literacy. The project will thus combine new and traditional methodologies within a multi-disciplinary theoretical framework, thus bringing fresh theoretical and historico-philosophical approaches to bear on a traditionally methodologically conservative field of study, and has the potential to radically alter our picture of early Christian monasticism, manuscript culture, and doctrinal diversity.

Professor Katja Franko

Faculty of Law, Department of Criminology and Sociology of Law

Project: Crimmigration: Crime Control in the Borderlands of Europe


 

Summary

Duration: Start date: 2011-04-01, End date: 2016-03-31

Call: SH2, ERC-2010-StG

Summary: Control of migration is becoming an increasingly important task of contemporary policing and criminal justice agencies. The purpose of this project is to map the progressive intertwining and merging of crime control and migration control practices in Europe and to examine their implications. The project is guided by three sets of research questions: 1) How do contemporary police and criminal justice institutions deal with unwanted mobility and the influx of 'aliens' (i.e. non-citizens) to their territories? 2) What is the relevance of citizenship for European penal systems? and 3) How do contemporary crime control practices support and perform the task of (cultural and territorial) border control? The project aims to analyse the impact of the growing emphasis on migration control on criminal justice agencies such as the police, prisons and detention facilities. The basic hypothesis of the project is that migration control objectives are contributing to the development of novel forms of punishment and new rationalities of social control termed 'crimmigration'. The project aims to describe these novel hybrid forms of control since they constitute important conceptual challenges for criminal justice scholarship and require new theoretical perspectives. A question will be asked: what kind of break from traditional criminal justice practices and principles do they represent? Is the focus on punishment and reintegration of offenders gradually being replaced by a focus on diversion, immobilisation and deportation? Moreover what kind of legal, organisational and normative responses do they require?

Professor Hans Kristian Kamfjord Eriksen

Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, Institute of Theoretical Astrophysics

Project: Anisotropic universe: The anisotropic universe- a reality or fluke?

 

Summary

Duration: Start date: 2011-01-01, End date: 2015-12-31

Call: PE9, ERC-2010-StG

Summary: During the last decade, a strikingly successful cosmological concordance model has been established. With only six free parameters, nearly all observables, comprising millions of data points, may be fitted with outstanding precision. However, in this beautiful picture a few "blemishes" have turned up, apparently not consistent with the standard model: While the model predicts that the universe is isotropic (i.e., looks the same in all directions) and homogeneous (i.e., the statistical properties are the same everywhere), subtle hints of the contrary are now seen. For instance, peculiar preferred directions and correlations are observed in the cosmic microwave background; some studies considering nearby galaxies suggest the existence of anomalous large-scale cosmic flows; a study of distant quasars hints towards unexpected large-scale correlations. All of these reports are individually highly intriguing, and together they hint toward a more complicated and interesting universe than previously imagined -- but none of the reports can be considered decisive. One major obstacle in many cases has been the relatively poor data quality. This is currently about to change, as the next generation of new and far more powerful experiments are coming online. Of special interest to me are Planck, an ESA-funded CMB satellite currently taking data; QUIET, a ground-based CMB polarization experiment located in Chile; and various large-scale structure (LSS) data sets, such as the SDSS and 2dF surveys, and in the future Euclid, a proposed galaxy survey satellite also funded by ESA. By combining the world s best data from both CMB and LSS measurements, I will in the proposed project attempt to settle this question: Is our universe really anisotropic? Or are these recent claims only the results of systematic errors or statistical flukes? If the claims turn out to hold against this tide of new and high-quality data, then cosmology as a whole may need to be re-written.

Professor Øystein Linnebo

Faculty of Humanities, Department of Philosophy, Classics, History of Art and Ideas

Project: PPP: Plurals, predicates, and paradox: Towards a type-free account

 

Summary

Duration: Start date: 2010-01-01, End date: 2013-12-31

Call:  ID1, ERC-2009-StG

Summary: This project aims to transform our understanding of the logical paradoxes, their solution and significance for mathematics, philosophy and semantics. It seeks to show that some of the key inferences in the paradoxes should not uncritically be blocked, as is customary, but rather be tamed and put to valuable mathematical, philosophical and semantic use. By adopting a richer logical framework than usual, the paradoxes can be transformed from threats to valuable sources of insight. When discovered at the turn of the previous century, the paradoxes caused a foundational crisis in mathematics. Many logicians and philosophers now believe the crisis has been resolved. This project denies that an acceptable resolution has been found and aims to do better. A strong push remains towards paradox. This push arises from the widespread use of (and need for) higher-order logics (HOL), which allow quantification into the positions of predicates or plural noun phrases. Phase I seeks to reveal greater similarities between HOL and set theory than generally appreciated. Phase II explores four arguments that HOL collapses to first-order logic, i.e. that every higher-order entity defines a corresponding first-order entity. These arguments are generally ignored as they threaten to reintroduce the paradoxes. But we show that a properly circumscribed form of collapse is a valuable source of mathematical and semantic insight. Phase III examines controlled forms of collapse using notions of modality and groundedness. This enables us to motivate ZF set theory and valuable semantic theories, explain the nature of cognition about sets and properties, and show that mathematics cannot be fully extensionalized. Phase IV applies these insights to solve the paradoxes and criticize influential uses of HOL.

Published Sep. 4, 2015 9:28 AM - Last modified July 2, 2019 1:38 PM