Principal Investigator

Short Bio: M.D. and Doctorate, Charitè, Humboldt-University of Berlin (2003). Postdoctoral fellow, Dept of Neurophysiology and Pathophysiology, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE) and Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging, Donders Institute, Nijmegen (2003-6). Postdoctoral fellow, Computational Neuroimaging Lab, New York University (2006-9). Assistant Professor, Brain and Cognition, University of Amsterdam (2009-15). Full Professor of Integrative Neuroscience (W3), UKE (since 2015). Head of Section Computational Cognitive Neuroscience, Dept of Neurophysiology and Pathophysiology, UKE (since 2019).

Full CV.
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Post-Doctoral Researchers

The general focus of my research has been the influence of neuromodulatory systems on human brain state and associated cognitive processes. In particular, I have used pharmacological intervention, fMRI, pupillometry, and EEG to study the influence of the locus coeruleus norepinephrine system on brain-wide functional interactions and attention. I have also worked on studying the neural mechanisms of non-adaptive post-error behavioral changes in relation to attentional reorienting, and the anatomical substrate of multisensory processing. The work with Tobias will focus on fast-acting and transient neural mechanisms that underlie cognitive switches.
I studied Brain and Cognitive Sciences in Amsterdam, and received my PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience from Leiden University, the Netherlands, where I worked under the supervisor of Prof. Sander Niewenhuis.

Personal website

The focal point of my research interest is how humans decide, plan, and execute their decisions. Specifically, I am interested in how humans adapt to changing inputs from the environment on various spatio-temporal scales. I have steered my academic career from investigating motor function to perceptual decision making and multisensory processing, using neuroimaging and computational modeling techniques. I will continue to investigate the mechanisms and functionality of human decision-making with a focus on adaptive features such as choice/perceptual bias.

I studied physics and visual communication design during my undergraduate studies, and after several years in the industry of user experience (UX) design, started my graduate studies and obtained my Ph.D. in cognitive neuroscience at the Seoul National University in South Korea.

The cortex is organized as a modular system, with the modules (cortical areas) communicating via weak long-range connections. It has been suggested that there might be an intrinsic mechanism contributing to enable successful communication amongst these cortical areas. To shed light on this issue, in my Phd I was mainly developing computational models and suggested that a powerful mechanism to facilitate signal transmission can be resonance property which is intrinsic to spiking neuronal networks. Then I applied Spike Timing-Dependent Plasticity rules to the layered networks which I had developed to study whether plasticity rules gave rise to amplification of such property or the resonance property potentiated synapses with matching resonance frequencies. I did my bachelor and master in Iran, and did my PhD in a common program between Iran and Germany (Bernstein Center Freiburg). Recently, I got a newly created joint position in the Panzeri and Donner labs at UKE. We are going to study signal transmission between a large network of neurons using both MEG data analysis and computational models.

Upon seeing looming clouds, we expect rain to occur. How do humans infer the temporal structure of their environment? I try to address this question using an interdisciplinary approach combining neural, computational, and psychological descriptions. More specifically, during my postdoc with Prof. Tobias Donner and Prof. Simon Wiegert, I am interrogating the possibility that brainstem arousal systems control the iterative update of beliefs (e.g. about rain following clouds) in response to novel, possibly surprising, observations (e.g. seeing the sun reappear). To this end, I am relying on a cross-species approach which combines precise recordings and manipulations of brainstem activity in mice, with large-scale recordings of cortical dynamics in humans, both during sequence learning. To guide the comparison, I am using pupil size as a reference signal and probabilistic inference as a common theoretical framework. Before, I studied Cognitive Science at ENS-Paris5-EHESS and obtained my PhD under the supervision of Dr. Florent Meyniel and Prof. Stanislas Dehaene.

Personal website

One of the most important open question in Neuroscience is understanding how the brain integrates and interprets sensory information available in the outside word, in order to generate a perceptual experience and guide our behavior.
During my PhD in Mathew Diamond’s Lab (SISSA, Triest) I studied how rodents and humans can extract the perception of the intensity and the duration of a tactile stimulus in parallel. To do so, I combined psychophysical measures, extracellular recordings in awake-behaving animals and computational modeling.
During my Post-doc in the DonnerLab I will focus on how human subjects integrate sensory information in the visual domain and translate them into a decision. More specifically, I will try to address how this process is related to the balance between excitatory and inhibitory neural activity in cortical circuits using MEG and pharmacological manipulations. Moreover, I am interested in understanding if these neurophysiological processes are disrupted in Schizophrenic patients and can help to develop new clinical biomarkers of the disease.
I am a Medical Doctor and I obtained my Medical Degree from University of Triest in 2015.

Understanding computational processes that underlie different brain functions is becoming more and more reachable with advances in data acquisition and data analysis. I did my degree in Electrical engineering in Iran and shifted to Neuroscience in my PhD in Cambridge. I then did two postdocs at Oxford. I have been mainly developing analysis techniques that facilitate information mapping in the brain and applied the techniques that I developed to a variety of tasks and research questions. Also, more recently my research has focused on multivariate extensions of functional connectivity. I am a member of the Panzeri lab and in collaboration with Tobias, I use information theory to do information mapping in Perceptual decision making and learning paradigms.

I have explored the algorithms responsible for perceptual decisions, confidence, and visual search. To do this I have used a variety of computational models with a particular focus on evidence accumulation models, and Bayesian models of cognition. In Tobias’ group I will continue to use normative models to understand human behaviour, but I will also explore the links between the algorithms specified by such models, and the operation of the brain. Using MEG I will investigate the routing of perceptual information through the brain. I will relate this routing, and changes in this routing, to computational variables derived from a normative algorithm.

I studied physics and philosophy as an undergraduate at Oxford University. I went on to study psychology at St Andrews University before returning to Oxford as a PhD student.

Neural responses to repeated presentation of identical stimuli are remarkably variable over time and across trials. During my PhD in Prof. Ilan Dinstein’s lab, I explored this trial-by-trial neural variability in human subjects, using EEG recordings combined with psychophysical and cognitive tasks. Specifically, I examined how individual differences in magnitudes of neural variability explain between-subject differences in perceptual and cognitive capabilities, and the extent to which neural variability is a stable brain trait. Moreover, I explored how visual attention changes neural variability in a behaviorally relevant manner.

During my post-doc with Prof. Tobias Donner, I will examine, among other things, neuromodulatory systems as potential brain mechanisms that may alter neural variability magnitudes, using MEG recordings and pharmacological interventions.

I studied Biomedical Engineering and obtained my PhD in Brain & Cognitive Sciences from Ben-Gurion University in Israel.

PhD / MD Students

I am a medical student at the University of Hamburg working on my MD thesis which is funded by a scholarship within the graduate program of the SFB936. I am especially interested in researching the pathophysiology of neuropsychiatric diseases. The aim of the project is to establish novel non-invasive biomarkers of Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) as a possible precursor to dementia. We will do so by assessing long-range temporal correlations at rest, a readout of persistent neural activity during working memory maintenance (both measured via MEG) and behavioural performance of a working memory task of MCI patients and healthy control participants.

I am a fifth year medical student at the University of Hamburg and currently working on my MD thesis. I am particularly interested in neuroscientific and psychiatric research to better understand human cognition and the way cognitive processes are altered in neuropsychiatric conditions. For my thesis, I will be exploring the behavioural and cognitive characteristics of decision-making in individuals who are at an increased risk of developing schizophrenia. The aim is to study the participants’ behavioural patterns and brain activity to establish non-invasive biomarkers as a possible precursor to schizophrenia. To gather behavioural and neurophysiological data, the participants will perform a task that involves decision making while simultaneously, their arousal and cortical activity will be measured by the non-invasive means of pupillometry and MEG.

Decisions shape our whole lives, from the big ones down to the very small ones we make every hour. I am generally interested in understanding the underlying neural and cognitive processes on which decisions rely and how they diverge in different situations or in different disorders. Therefore, I am pursuing a PhD here in the Donner Lab and as part of the Research Training Group 2753 “Emotional Learning and Memory”. I will investigate the role of brainstem arousal systems (such as the locus coeruleus for example) in memory formation and decisions from memory using pupillometry and brainstem fMRI. Before, I studied psychology in Osnabrück and Münster and worked with Simon Ciranka in Bernhard Spitzer’s lab at the MPI for Human Development in Berlin for my master’s project.

I am a PhD student at the UKE and working on my thesis in Dr. Konstantinos Tsetsos’s lab and under the co-supervision of Prof. Tobias Donner.
My research interest is to understand how humans make decisions, especially irrational ones. The aim of my project here is to investigate the neurobiological processes underlying choice phenomena (e.g. preference reversal and framing biases) in multi-attribute decision-making paradigms. In this project, I will use behavioral data analysis in psychophysics tasks, I will also simultaneously record eye position and MEG/EEG signals.

I am a medical student at the University of Hamburg working on my MD thesis. My research is embedded in a larger project addressing the functional impact of balance between excitation and inhibition in neural activity in cortical circuits of the human brain – something that can be altered in patients with schizophrenia. Through measuring the brain activity of healthy subjects within the framework of a pharmacological MEG study with lorazepam and memantine, we hope to get closer to understanding this disruption.

I am a medical student from the University of Hamburg and am currently doing my M.D. thesis under the supervision of Prof. Simon Wiegert and co-supervision of Prof. Tobias Donner. My main interest is the neural basis of perceptual decision-making, which can be used as a gate for studying cognition. To achieve this I will test the effects of different evidence strengths, history biases and optogenetic interventions in an auditory behavioral task for mice and quantify what determines their choices in trials and how these can be changed.

Research Assistants

As a recent graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Sciences and a master’s degree in Neuroscience from the University of Antwerp, my prior experience lies in molecular neuroscience through internships at both the VIB-UA Institute for Molecular Neurology as well as the VIB-KU Leuven Institute for Brain and Disease. Along my path, I delved into translational molecular psychiatry and ADHD at the University of Zurich Institute of Kinder- und Jugendpsychiatrie und Psychotherapie. This led me to develop an interest in cognitive neuroscience, psychiatry and, later on, computational methods. I’ve nurtured my interests in cognitive science through enriching experiences, including summer schools in Aarhus, Denmark, and at ETH Zurich, where I immersed myself in computational psychiatry. My passion led me to delve deeper into understanding the fundamental processes underlying arousal and decision-making. Now, I eagerly embrace the opportunity to work on pupil-linked arousal systems on memory-based decisions and learn more about pupillometry, MEG and computational methods by joining the lab as a research assistant.

I am a medical and postgraduate Psychology student at the University of Hamburg.
Broadly speaking, my main research interests are cognitive and behavioral neurosciences and their application to psychiatric and neurological illness.
For my bachelor thesis, I investigated the neural correlates of self-referential belief processes in an fMRI-informed MEG study supervised by Martin Fungisai Gerchen at the Central Institute of Mental Health in Mannheim.
During my year abroad at the University of Cambridge, I took a great interest in Bayesian approaches of belief and belief updating to hallucinations and delusions, the hallmarks of psychosis.
I have joined the lab as a research assistant to learn more about decision making and pupillometry, among others.