SCHUCK LAB

MAX PLANCK
RESEARCH GROUP
NEUROCODE




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.





News

Aug
2021
New Preprint: L-DOPA enhances hippocampal direction signals in younger and older adults by Christoph Koch, Christian Bäuchl, Franka Glöckner, Philipp Riedel, Johannes Petzold, Michael Smolka, Shu-Chen Li and Nico is up on bioRxiv.
Aug
2021
New Paper: Orbitofrontal cortex and learning predictions of state transitions by Stephanie C. Y. Chan, Nico, Nina Lopatina, Geoffrey Schoenbaum, & Yael Niv was published in Behavioral Neuroscience.
Aug
2021
New Paper: Differential prioritization of intramaze cue and boundary information during spatial navigation across the human lifespan by Franka Glöckner, Nico and Shu-Chen Li was published in Scientific Reports.
Aug
2021
New Paper: Replay in minds and machines by Lennart Wittkuhn, Samson Chien, Sam Hall-McMaster and Nico was published in Neuroscience and Behavioral Reviews.
May
2021
Noa has been admitted to the Einstein PhD Fellowship Program of the Einstein Center for Neurosciences Berlin. Congrats, Noa!
Mar
2021
New Preprint: Integrating reward information for prospective behaviour by Sam Hall-McMaster, Mark G. Stokes and Nick E. Myers is up on bioRxiv.
Mar
2021
New Paper: Dynamics of fMRI patterns reflect sub-second activation sequences and reveal replay in human visual cortex by Lennart Wittkuhn and Nico was published in Nature Communications.
Mar
2021
New Preprint: Parallel representation of context and multiple context-dependent values in ventro-medial prefrontal cortex by Nir Moneta, Mona M. Garvert, Hauke R. Heekeren and Nico is up on bioRxiv.
Feb
2021
We are looking for a Postdoc to work with Mingbo Cai at The University of Tokyo on a collaborative project led together with Nico. Find the job ad here.
Feb
2021
We are welcoming Shany Grossman as a Postdoc in the lab!
Jan
2021
New Preprint: Control over patch encounters changes foraging behaviour by Sam Hall-McMaster, Peter Dayan and Nico is up on bioRxiv.
Dec
2020
New Paper: Impaired adaptation of learning to contingency volatility in internalizing psychopathology by Christopher Gagne, Ondrej Zika, Peter Dayan and Sonia J. Bishop was published in eLife.
Nov
2020
Sam HMM has been awarded a Humboldt Research Fellowship for Postdoctural Researchers. Congrats, Sam!
Oct
2020
New Preprint: Orbitofrontal cortex and learning predictions of state transitions by Stephanie C.Y. Chan, Nico, Nina Lopatina, Geoffrey Schoenbaum and Yael Niv is up on bioRxiv.
Oct
2020
Nico is now a member of the Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience Berlin!
Sep
2020
Special Issue: Martin N. Hebart and Nico edited the special issue Current Topics in Computational Cognitive Neuroscience in Neuropsychologia. The editorial can be found here .
Sep
2020
New Paper: Similarities and differences in spatial and non-spatial cognitive maps by Charley M. Wu, Eric Schulz, Mona M. Garvert, Björn Meder and Nico was published in PLoS Computational Biology.

Research

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 and Wittkuhn & Schuck, 2020, bioRxiv.

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 Koch et al., 2020, Neuropsychologia 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.

Team

The Team
Nico

Nicolas Schuck

PI

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 wife, friends and his bicycle.
Shany

Shany Grossman

Postdoc

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

Ondrej Zika

Postdoc

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

Marit Petzka

Postdoc

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

Sam Hall-McMaster

Postdoc

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.
Lennart

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

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

Anika Löwe

PhD Student

Anika is interested in cognitive control, learning 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

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

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

Noa Louise Hedrich

Research Assistant

Noa is currently completing 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

Luianta Verra

Research Assistant

Luianta is currently doing 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.
Moritz

Moritz Bammel

Research Assistant

Moritz is currently doing his Master’s in Cognitive Neuroscience at the Berlin School of Mind and Brain. Before moving to Berlin, he studied Cognitive Science at the University of Osnabrueck. At the lab, Moritz is interested in spontaneous thought. If he is not mind wandering himself, he enjoys nature and discussions about philosophy.
Mona

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

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.

Join

Nico is not taking in additional PhD students in 2021.

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.



Contact

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


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