Welcome to the website of Schuck Lab, formally known as the the Independent Max Planck Research Group Neurocode. Either way, 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 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.


New Preprint: Effects of Aging on the Encoding of Spatial Direction in the Human Brain by Christoph Koch, Shu-Chen Li, Thad A. Polk and Nico is up on bioRxiv.
Nico has been awarded an ERC starting grant. Congrats, Nico!
New Paper: Sequential replay of nonspatial task states in the human hippocampus by Nico & Yael Niv was published in Science.
New Paper: Noisy galvanic vestibular stimulation modulates spatial memory in young healthy adults by Danica Hilliard, Susanne Passow, Franka Thurm, Nico, Alexander Garthe, Gerd Kempermann & Shu-Chen Li was published in Scientific Reports.
New Paper: Representational structure or task structure? Bias in neural representational similarity analysis and a Bayesian method for reducing bias by Ming Bo Cai, Nico, Jonathan W. Pillow and Yael Niv was published in PLoS Computational Biology.
We are happy to have Ondrej Zika start as a Postdoc. Welcome (back), Ondrej!
Nir has been admitted to the Einstein PhD Fellowship Program of the Einstein Center for Neurosciences Berlin. Congrats, Nir!
New Paper: Incidental covariation learning leading to strategy change by Robert Gaschler, Nico, Carlo Reverberi, Peter A. Frensch and Dorit Wenke was published in PLoS ONE.
New Preprint: Early development of self-guided strategy improvements in children by Nico, Dorit Wenke, Destina S. Ay, Anika Löwe, Robert Gaschler and Yee Shing is up on psyArXiv.
Nico is now a member of the Einstein Center for Neurosciences Berlin!


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.

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.

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 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 how the brain allows humans to learn and make decisions, and how we can lift these secrets using brain imaging techniques. He studied psychology at Humboldt University (2004), later had an affair with Machine Learning at University of Toronto, and did his PhD in Psychology 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 fiance, friends and his bicycle.

Samson Chien


Sam's interest lies in the convergence of neuroscience and AI, especially deep learning and reinforcement learning. His research investigates the development of state representations in the orbitofrontal cortex and the deep neural network during a learning task. He believes that significant future breakthroughs would require interdisciplinary endeavors combining both fields.

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.

Lennart Wittkuhn

PhD Student

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

MA Student

While currently studying Cognitive Neuroscience, Anika is interested in cognitive control, learning and spontaneous strategy switches. She is a committed health nut with a big interest in art and music and supplies the lab with baked goods.

Nir Moneta

MA 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!
Lena Maria

Lena Maria Krippner

Research Assistant

Lena currently pursues her Master’s degree at the Berlin School of Mind and Brain. Her research interests lie at the intersection of philosophy, cognitive science and artificial intelligence; with a special focus on accounts of explanation in neuroscience, cognitive ontology and theories of computation and intelligence. In her spare time, she likes to spend time with friends, drink nice coffee and occasionally go running.

Sudeshna Bora

Research Assistant

Sudeshna is currently studying Computational Neuroscience. She is interested in studying the neural analysis of Psychiatric disorders. Outside the lab, she enjoys reading historical non fiction and painting.

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.

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.


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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