Welcome to the website of Schuck Lab (a.k.a the 'Max Planck Research Group Neurocode'). We are a cognitive neuroscience lab that studies how our brain allows us to learn, remember and to make good decisions. The lab is funded by the Max Planck Society and the European Research Council and is part of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, Germany. Below you can find more information about us and what we do.

Interested in participating in our research? Write us at

We pay between 10 and 15€ per hour and are continously looking for healthy study particpants.


Nico accepted a professorship at the University of Hamburg! The Schuck lab at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development will continue until the end of 2023. Congrats, Nico!
New Paper: L-DOPA enhances neural direction signals in younger and older adults by Christoph, Christian Bäuchl, Franka Glöckner, Philipp Riedel, Johannes Petzold, Michael N. Smolka, Shu-Chen Li and Nico was published in NeuroImage.
We are welcoming Xiangjuan Ren as a Postdoc in the lab!
New Paper: Spontaneous discovery of novel task solutions in children by Nico, Amy Li, Dorit Wenke, Destina Ay-Bryson, Anika, Robert Gaschler and Yee Lee Shing was published in PloS ONE.
New Paper: Sleep spindles track cortical learning patterns for memory consolidation by Marit, Alex Chatburn, Ian Charest, George M. Balanos and Bernhard Staresina was published in Current Biology.
We are excited to have Noa continue as a PhD student in the lab!
Lennart (the lab's first PhD student!) has defended his PhD thesis (with distinction!). Congrats, superstar Lennart - we are so proud of you!
New Preprint: Trait anxiety is associated with hidden state inference during aversive reversal learning by Ondrej, Katja Wiech, Andrea Reinecke, Michael Browning and Nico is up on bioRxiv.
New Paper: Decoding cognition from spontaneous neural activity by Yunzhe Liu, Matthew Nour, Nico, Timothy Behrens, and Raymond Dolan has been accepted at Nature Reviews Neuroscience.


Whenever we play chess, plan a vacation, or cook a meal, we are using past experience to inform our decisions. Our research group seeks to understand how the brain can generate such flexible behavior by extracting and reusing information from memory to predict future outcomes. To do so, we conduct behavioral and neuroimaging studies and employ machine learning algorithms and computational models of reinforcement learning. Specifically, these are our key research areas:

Orbitofrontal cortex and the representation of task states

Predictions derived from reinforcement learning theory regarding prediction error and value signals have found much support in neuroscientific data. But what about the elusive state representations that are necessary for reinforcement learning algorithms? Is there a neural counterpart of these states? Our lab investigates the nature and potential neural basis of these task state representations, see for instance Schuck et al., 2016, Neuron or Schuck et al., 2017.

The role of hippocampal replay in decision making

Fast sequences of neural activation patterns in the hippocampus have been linked to the 'replay' of previous spatial experiences. We investigate how such fast neural events can be detected with fMRI in humans and what their role is in decision making and creating a cognitive map of the current task, see Schuck & Niv, 2019, Science, Wittkuhn & Schuck, 2021, Nature Communications and Wittkuhn, Chien, Hall-McMaster & Schuck, 2021, Neuroscience and Behavioural Reviews.

Influence of task irrelevant information on decision making

When we make a decision, we really should only focus on the few aspects that seem relevant. But we often fail to do that, for better or worse (getting distracted vs. thinking outside the box). Our lab therefore investigates the effects of task irrelevant information in decision making, see Schuck et al., 2015, Neuron and Schuck et al., 2022, PLoS ONE.

How aging, genes and disease affect (spatial) memory & learning

Age and DNA have widespread effects on our brain as well as our cognitive abilities. Our lab investigates specific links between changes in neural representations associated with age and genotype, and cognitive changes. For instance, in Schuck et al., 2015, NeuroImage, we have investigated how well spatial boundaries are represented in the brain and how spatial navigation is related to this neural function. In Koch et al., 2020, Neuropsychologia and Koch et al., 2022, NeuroImage we compared older and younger adults to see how precise the aging brain can processes walking direction. In other papers we have investigated how genetic factors and disease influence our memory, see Schuck et al., 2018, Neurobiology of Aging and Thurm et al., 2016, Neurobiology of Aging.


The Team

Nicolas Schuck


Nico wants to understand the neural mechanisms of learning and decision making, and tries to lift these secrets using brain imaging techniques in humans. He studied psychology at Humboldt University, later had an affair with Machine Learning at University of Toronto, and did his PhD on cognitive brain aging at the MPI for Human Development. After a postdoc at the Princeton Neuroscience Institute, he started his own research group at MPI Berlin. Outside of the lab he is devoted to his family, running, the sun, good company, and the hope that humans will not destroy the planet earth.

Shany Grossman


Shany is interested in understanding how task representations are formed in the brain while learning a new task, and how can they be repurposed for solving new tasks. To do so, she uses fMRI, behavioral measurements and neural networks simulations. She completed her PhD at the Weizmann Institute in Israel, studying the visual system using fMRI and iEEG. She is deeply in love with her son Leo, loves running and spending time with family and friends.

Ondrej Zika


Ondrej is interested in the neural representation of uncertainty and the role of anxiety in aversive learning. Before his PhD in Oxford he studied Psychology and Marketing where he worked as an RA in the O'Doherty lab at Caltech and later in the Bishop lab at Oxford. He is a fan of linux and ice hockey, likes to cycle, code and drink coffee.

Marit Petzka


Marit is interested in understanding the brain mechanisms underlying sleep-dependent memory consolidation. What happens in the sleeping brain when newly made experiences become long lasting memories? During her PhD at the University of Birmingham, she has started to address this question and follows up on it now by investigating replay during sleep using fMRI and electrophysiology. Apart from science, she enjoys electronic music, bouldering, and everything that involves wind and a kite.

Sam Hall-McMaster


Sam’s research focuses on the brain mechanisms that enable goal-directed behaviour. He studied Neuroscience at the University of Otago in New Zealand, UC Berkeley in the United States and did his PhD at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. As a Humboldt Fellow in the lab, Sam uses fMRI to understand how the same neural patterns can be reused in different situations. As shocking as it may sound, he loves writing.

Xiangjuan Ren


Xiangjuan (祥娟) is eager to understand how the human brain enables learning, represents abstract concepts, and uses what it has learned to make subsequent decisions. To address these questions, she combines neuroimaging and computational modeling. She got her PhD degree and first training of postdoc in Peking University. Now she will open a new scientific journey to study the age-related effects on the occurrence and distribution of replay. Outside the lab, she likes drawing pencil sketch, theatre, stroll and absence of mind.

Lennart Wittkuhn


Lennart studied Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience in Dresden. During his PhD he investigates hippocampal replay in humans using fMRI and tools that make science better. Outside the lab he enjoys city cycling, bagel baking and doodle drawing.

Christoph Koch

PhD Student

Christoph‘s interests are reinforcement learning, how the human brain reflects our environment, and what influence our age might have concerning both. He majored in Cognitive Neuroscience, loves climbing and connects to sloths on many different levels.

Anika Löwe

PhD Student

Anika is interested in learning, insight moments and replay in humans as well as machines. Before joining the lab as a PhD student, she studied Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience. She spends about 80% of her awake time listening to music, loves art and overcaffeinating.

Nir Moneta

PhD Student

Nir is interested in the representations of values and value-based decisions in the brain, mainly using human fMRI. Before his PhD he studied Psychology in Israel and Cognitive Neuroscience in Berlin. On an ongoing search for non-scientific hobbies, suggestions are welcome!

Fabian Renz

PhD Student (co-supervised by Christian Döller at MPI CBS)

Fabian’s interests center around replay, representations (what they are and how they come about?), and the overarching question how cognition and the brain relate to one another. Before joining the group as a PhD student, he studied psychology and cognitive science. Outside the lab he can be found on a basketball court or the ever ongoing search for delicious food and the perfect cup of coffee.

Noa Louise Hedrich

PhD Student

Before joining the lab as an ECN PhD student, Noa completed her Masters in Neuroscience at the Berlin School of Mind and Brain. Her interests lie in how artificial and biological neural systems can inform each other about learning and decision-making. Away from her laptop she can mostly be found tap dancing, reading or enjoying a nice cup of tea.

Luianta Verra

PhD Student

Before joining the lab as a LIFE doctoral fellow, Luianta did her Masters in Psychology at Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, focusing on Neurocognitive Psychology. She is interested in memory and sleep and loves hiking, nature and good design.

Neele Elbersgerd

Research Assistant

Neele studied Psychology in Potsdam and is now doing her Master's in Cognitive Neuroscience at FU Berlin. She is interested in how the brain learns and makes decisions in complex environments. Apart from science, she loves going to concerts, consuming books, art, and video games while drinking tons of coffee.

Maria Tzegka

Research Assistant

Maria studied Psychology in Greece and is currently doing her Masters in Cognitive Science - Embodied Cognition at University of Potsdam. She is interested in how the use of technologies motivates and shapes human behavior. Apart from academia you will find her “wasting” her time on playing online video games and/or role-playing games.

Amanda Meira Lins

Research Assistant

Amanda graduated in Psychology in Bremen and is currently doing her Masters in Cognitive Neuroscience at Freie Universität Berlin. She is interested in understanding how the brain generates emotions, as well as how it takes in information and adapts current understanding and concepts. When she is not working she can be found binge-watching shows, reading YA novels, and annoying everyone with facts about Brazil.

Mona Garvert

Adjunct Researcher

Mona is interested in how the brain learns about the world. She has a PhD in Neuroscience from UCL and is now a Group Leader at the MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences. She loves travelling, food and coffee.

Rasmus Bruckner

Adjunct Researcher

Rasmus is an adjunct postdoctoral researcher mainly based at Freie Universität Berlin. He develops and applies computational models of learning and decision making. The main focus of his research is on experience-driven learning in uncertain environments. He is also interested in modeling learning and memory in mice and the statistics of stock markets.

Prashanti Ganesh

Adjunct Researcher

Prashanti is a doctoral candidate at the Berlin School of Mind and Brain, HU Berlin and at Freie Universität Berlin. Previously, she studied psychology and cognitive science in India. Her research interests are focused on reward-based decisions, outcome evaluation and learning under uncertainty. Beyond science, she usually enjoys reading, cooking and colouring.

Muhammad Hashim Satti

Adjunct Researcher

Hashim is a doctoral candidate at the Max Planck School of Cognition and FU Berlin, with a background in computational neuroscience and electrical engineering. His research interests center around understanding how the brain adapts to make decisions in uncertain aversive environments. Apart from science, he is found either exploring hidden cafes, hiking or trying (read: failing) to play various new sports.

Eva Wünsch

Administrative Assitant

Eva plants fruit trees in her garden, self-confidence in her children and structure in her daily work.

Gregor Caregnato

Lab Manager

Gregor supports us running experiments and is the reason we get all this high quality data to analyze.


Lab Dog

Pablo is very interested in positive reinforcement and tries to get a hang of how to reduce uncertainty when searching for treats. He mainly does this in a sleep context. Reach out for collaborations, he is always happy to distract you while working.


Nico is not taking in additional PhD students in 2023.

Diversity Statement

The Schuck Lab is strongly committed to creating an inclusive research environment by promoting equity and diversity. We are mindful of our goal to provide equal opportunities for all - regardless of race, ethnicity and national origin, gender and gender identity, sexuality, class and religion - but not limited to those categories. At the Schuck Lab, we actively welcome students and staff from diverse backgrounds and we value the richness that diversity brings to the scientific community.

General information

We currently have no open positions for interns. If you are a prospective graduate student, read the information below. We are also open for applications from Postdocs with relevant experience in cognitive neuroscience.

Graduate Programs

Nico is a faculty member of the International Max Planck Research Schools COMP2PSYCH and LIFE as well as a member of the Einstein Center for Neurosciences. Potential PhD students can apply to these programms to join the lab, but should reach out to the program organisers and Nico in advance.


Max Planck Research Group NeuroCode
c/o Nicolas Schuck
Max Planck Institute for Human Development
Lentzeallee 94
D-14195 Berlin, Germany
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