Cognitive Neuroscience

Carlos Alos-Ferrer


Prof. Dr. Carlos Alos-Ferrer
Department of Economics, Laboratory for Social and Neural Systems Research

Research: Carlos Alós-Ferrer’s research foci are neuroeconomics, decision theory, game theory, evolution and learning in games and markets. Neuroeconomics studies the underlying neural processes of decision-making within today’s economic environment. Essential to the further progress of this field is the construction of empirically informed, testable models that connect the level of neural and mental processes underlying decision-making with the descriptive models of choice characterizing modern economics.
Keywords: Neuroeconomics, Decision Theory, Game Theory, Evolution and Learning in Games and Markets

Topics: Neural Basis of Behavior, Cognitive Neuroscience



Susanne Becker


PD Dr. Susanne Becker
Integrative Spinal Research Group, Department of Chiropractic Medicine, Balgrist University Hospital, University of Zurich

Research Focus: The experience of pain is more than the conscious perception of nociceptive signals. Emotional and motivational aspects accompany pain, leading to its aversiveness and motivation for escape and avoidance. Moreover, it has been proposed that a negative hedonic shift, comprising unproportionally increased emotional-motivational pain responses, plays an important role in the development and maintenance of chronic pain. Our group focuses on the investigation of psychobiological mechanisms of dissociations of emotional-motivational and sensory-discriminative components of pain in health and disease states, using psychophysical methods, pharmacological interventions, and brain imaging techniques. Specifically, we investigate the role of the neurotransmitter dopamine, functional connectivity in fronto-striatal brain networks, and supraspinal neuroinflammation in the proposed negative hedonic shift in chronic pain.

Keywords: pain modulation, emotional-motivational pain processing, dopamine, fMRI, psychophysics

Topic: Cognitive Neuroscience, Sensory Systems



Daniel Brandeis


Prof. Dr. Daniel Brandeis 
Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University of Zurich, University of Zurich

Research Focus: We focus on mapping brain functions and plasticity in typical development, neurodevelopmental disorders, and treatment with electrical and multimodal imaging (EEG-fMRI, MRS, with S. Brem). Clinical projects cover longitudinal brain mapping in common neurodevelopmental disorders like Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), aggression and Dyslexia. We characterize timing, localization and genetics (with E.  Grünblatt) of compromised networks as endophenotypes as state dependent deficits during rest, attention, inhibition, reward processing, or print tuning etc.  For clinical translation we focus on neurofeedback and biofeedback training (with R. Drechsler), and evaluate potential biomarkers using multimodal approaches.

Keywords: ADHD, dyslexia, OCD, conduct disorder, development, plasticity, functional brain mapping, EEG, ERP, fMRI, MRS,  neurofeedback, biofeedback, longitudinal studies, reading, attention, genetics, gene x environment interactions.

Topics: Disorders of the Nervous System, Development and Regeneration, Cognitive Neuroscience, Biomedical Technology and Imaging

Publications: pubmed



Silvia Brem


Dr. sc. nat. Silvia Brem
University Clinic for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (UCCAP), University of Zürich

Research Focus: Current research interests are the use of multimodal imaging techniques (EEG, MRI) to examine i) typical and atypical reading development (developmental dyslexia), ii) prediction and intervention in dyslexia and iii) dysfunctional brain networks in child psychiatric populations such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and juvenile obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

Keywords: EEG, MRI, simultaneous EEG-fMRI, reading, developmental dyslexia, ADHD, OCD

Topics: Cognitive Neuroscience, Disorders of the Nervous System

Publications: pubmed



Peter Brugger


Prof. Dr. phil. Peter Brugger 
Department Neuropsychology, Rehabilitationszentrum Valens and
Dept of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, Psychiatric Hospital, University of Zurich

Research Focus: One focus is on space representation in healthy individuals and patients with hemispatial neglect. The “space” we are interested in is not confined to physical space, but comprises imagined locations, number space and the spatial representation of time. A very special, private part of space is our body. We are interested in the relations between corporeal awareness and the construction and experience of the self. This experience can change after brain damage, but can also drastically deviate from the norm in a minority of apparently healthy individuals. Cognitive dysfunction in a demyelinating disorder, multiple sclerosis, represents a further focus of interest. Here we are specifically interested in the relative contributions of white matter and gray matter lesions to cognitive performance, specifically executive functions. Generally, our strengths are in behavioral methods; structural and functional neuroimaging may complement the behavioral approach.

Keywords: Processing of space and time, body and self, structural correlates of cognitive dysfunction

Topics: Cognitive Neuroscience, Disorders of the Nervous System




PD Dr. sc. ETH Markus Christen

Institute of Biomedical Ethics and History of Medicine & UZH Digital Society Initiative, University of Zurich
Research Focus: The Neuro-Ethics-Technology research group of the Institute of Biomedical Ethics and History of Medicine investigates research topics at the interfaces of ethics, neuroscience/-psychology and information technology. We use both empirical and normative methodologies in currently nine different research projects. Those research fields are: research on moral intelligence components, family life, health & moral development, brain death and transplantation, serious moral games, ethics of neuromodulation, moral decision making and autonomous systems, Big data ethics, visualizing morally loaded data, cybersecurity and ethics.

Keywords: neuroethics; deep brain stimulation; brain death; big data ethics; moral psychology; ethics of information technology
Topics: Biomedical Technology; Cognitive Neuroscience; Motor Systems




Moritz Daum


Prof. Dr. phil. Moritz M. Daum
Department of Psychology, Developmental Psychology: Infancy and Childhood, University of Zurich

Research Focus: The overarching aim of the Research Group “Developmental Psychology” is to address the roots of infants’ and young children’s perception and understanding of their social world. The understanding of others as social agents is one of the most fundamental skills in our everyday social life. It is crucial for any engagement in cooperative and communicative activities. In our research, we are particularly interested in the mechanisms that form the bedrock of infants’ action perception, the interrelation of infants’ early action perception comprehension to the control of their own actions, the selective implementation of observed actions in one’s own actions.

Current projects focus on the (neuro-)cognitive processes underlying infants’ and young children’s action understanding, the interrelation of action understanding and action performance across the whole lifespan, the interrelation of language and action in development, and the development of the self.

Keywords: developmental psychology, infancy, life span, cognitive development, action perception language, imitation, eye tracking, EEG

Topics: Development and Regeneration, Neural Basis of Behavior, Cognitive Neuroscience

Publications: pubmed






PD Dr. med. Dr. med. dent. Dominik Ettlin

Center of Dental Medicine, University of Zurich

Research Focus: Our clinical focus is the biopsychosocial evaluation and management of patients suffering from athrogenic, myogenic and neurogenic trigeminal pain disorders. The interdisciplinary team includes dentists, physicians, psychologists and neuroscientists.

We aim at better understanding peripheral and central pathomechanisms underlying these disorders, utilizing primarily functional magnetic resonance imaging and spectroscopy (fMRI and fMRS). We developed several MR-compatible setups for reliable stimulation of extra and intraoral structures.

We are also interested in behavioral aspects of pain. By collecting multicenter clinical data, we analyze potential pain etiologies and modifying factors.

Keywords: trigeminal sensory system, nociception, (orofacial) pain, brainstem and cortical pain fMRI, fMRS, questionnaires, clinical pain trials

Topics: Sensory Systems, Neural Basis of Behavior, Disorders of the Nervous Systems, Biomedical Technology and Imaging, cognitive neuroscience

Publication: PubMed



Sascha Frühholz


Prof. Dr. Sascha Frühholz
Department of Psychology, Division of Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, University of Zurich
Research Focus: Research focus in auditory and in affective neuroscience. Research projects on the cognitive and neural mechanisms of face and voice perception, on voice production, and on emotional processing. Research methods include fMRI, EEG, TMS, NIRS, machine learning, and behavioral/psychoacoustic experiments.

Keywords: Emotion, voice, vocal production, auditory system, limbic system

Topic: Cognitive Neuroscience

Publications: pubmed



Giroud Nathalie


Dr. Nathalie Giroud
Phonetics and Speech Sciences, Department of Computational Linquistics, University of Zurich

Research Focus: In our group we investigate mechanisms of language processing in the brain using a variety of neuroimaging techniques (e.g. EEG, MRI) as well as psychophysical and neuropsychological testing. Our research focuses on the neural underpinnings of the highly prevalent age-related hearing loss and speech perception difficulties in older adults. We are working towards understanding its impact on the brain and its relationship with cognitive decline in healthy individuals and in older adults with neuropathology such as Alzheimer’s disease. The long-term goal of our research is to develop rehabilitation strategies for audio(-visual) speech processing difficulties in healthy older adults and individuals with mild cognitive impairment and dementia. Furthermore, we are also interested in understanding the association between hearing loss and brain atrophy, cognitive mechanisms of audiovisual speech processing, as well as bilingualism and foreign language learning in an aging population.

Keywords: hearing loss, aging, dementia, language, speech processing, neural entrainment, EEG, MRI, audiovisual processing, cognition

Topics: Cognitive Neuroscience, Sensory Systems




Todd Hare


Prof. Dr. Todd Hare
Laboratory for Social and Neural Systems Research, Department of Economics, University of Zürich

Research Focus: Decision making is central to human behavior and the ability to make good choices is necessary for personal health and optimal social functioning. Our goal is to understand the neural mechanisms of decision making in healthy, typical populations as well as how these processes become dysfunctional in specific behavioral disorders and pathophysiologies.

We examine the neural networks that mediate decision making for various reward types (primary, monetary, social), and have shown that while key areas of the decision network are recruited across choice domains, the regions with which they interact differ between decision contexts. Using a combination of behavioral, neuroimaging, brain stimulation, and computational modeling techniques, current projects focus on the impact of factors such as stress, social feedback, and attention on both self-control and normative decision making.

Keywords: decision making, self-control, strategic choice

Topic: Cognitive Neuroscience




Katharina Henke


Prof. Dr. Katharina Henke
Department of Psychology and Center for Cognition, Learning and Memory, University of Bern

Research Focus: Our neuroimaging findings suggest that the human hippocampal formation specializes in the rapid establishment of new associations between items in memory. Patient studies revealed that the hippocampal formation is necessary for the rapid encoding and retrieval of new associations even when encoding and retrieval were carried out unconsciously. We found a role of sleep in the consolidation of consciously and unconsciously acquired memories. Even de-novo memory formation during daytime naps appears feasible.  We currently test for a potential advantage of unconscious over conscious information processing in situations where complex information needs to be simultaneously processed and integrated. This research informs models of information processing and models of memory systems at both the neural and mental level.

Keywords: Human memory, unconscious information processing, hippocampus, sleep, neuroimaging

Topic: Cognitive Neuroscience





Prof. Dr. Alexis Hervais-Adelman
Department of Psychology, University of Zurich
Research Focus: Our research centres on the neural basis of language. In particular we focus on speech perception, multilingualism and literacy. We employ a variety of techniques including structural and functional MRI, EEG, MEG, tES and behavioural experiments combined with novel analyses to characterise the brain networks crucial to language, and their relationships with other cognitive faculties. We are particularly interested in using our fundamental research program to contribute developing interventions that can help support speech comprehension for individuals suffering from hearing impairment.

Keywords: Speech, Language, Neuroimaging, Multilingualism, Motor System, Basal Ganglia
Topic: Cognitive Neuroscience

Publications: google scholar

Website: https:/ /

Lutz Jäncke


Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Lutz Jäncke
Department of Psychology, Division of Neuropsychology, University of Zurich

Research Focus: The research group of Lutz Jäncke focusses on the plasticity of the human brain due to training and expertise in various areas (language, motor behavior etc.). For their research they use fMRI, sMRI, DTI, high-density EEG, TMS, and tDCS. A specific focus is placed on the neural and psychological foundations of music processing. In addition, they also work on the longitudinal changes of the human brain in the elderly. This research topic is the main content of a major University Research Priority Program (URPP) entitled „Dynamic of Healthy Aging“ of which LJ is the scientific director.

Besides these basic research project, Jäncke’s group works on the development of neuroscientific biomarkers for specific cognitive functions, which can be used objectively in different cultural contexts and which also can be used in clinical and rehabilitation contexts. A new research project focusses on the search for individual brain „finger“ prints.
Keywords: music processing, music expertise, expertise, brain plasticity, language processing, functional brain mapping, EEG, ERP, fMRI, sMRS, DTI, longitudinal studies, aging, brain anatomy, biomarker
Topics: Disorders of the Nervous System, Cognitive Neuroscience, Biomedical Technology and Imaging, Biomarker
Spyros Kollias


Prof. Dr med. Spyros Kollias
Neuroradiology Clinic, University Hospital Zurich

Research Focus: 

i) High-resolution structural imaging of neural tissue in vivo: a) imaging CNS myeloarchitecture with clinically relevant applications, using DTI, b) application of advanced techniques (MRS, DTI, Perfusion MRI), for increasing the specificity of MR technology

ii) Multimodal imaging and connectivity mapping of degenerative CNS disease: a) functional organization of the motor and visual systems and their post-lesional reorganization, b) developing imaging and metabolic biomarkers in dementias, b) neuroimaging of migraine, c) functional analysis of brain plasticity and functional recovery of function in paraplegia, d) multimodal imaging in schizophrenia.

iii) Advanced imaging of the spinal cord: including high-resolution structural MRI, MRS, and DTI with applications in oncological, traumatic and neurodegenerative pathologies.

Keywords: Neuroimaging, MRI, functional brain mapping, MR Spectroscopy, Brain connectivity, multimodal imaging.

Topics: Biomedical Technology and Imaging, Cognitive Neuroscience, Disorders of the Nervous System

Publications: pubmed


Karin Kucian


PD Dr. sc. nat. Karin Kucian, Junior Group Leader
Center for MR-Research, University Children's Hospital Zurich

Research Focus: Our research interests in neuroscience lie in developmental neuropsychology, in particular with emphasis on neuronal correlates of number processing and calculation in children and the effects of specific learning disorders, like developmental dyscalculia, or math anxiety on brain structure and function. Based on our own findings from behavioural and brain imaging studies (magnetic resonance imaging) and current knowledge about number processing and calculation we are also involved in the development and evaluation of special interventions for children with mathematical learning problems.

Keywords: number processing, dyscalculia, calculation, development, children, intervention, brain imaging, MRI

Topic: Cognitive Neuroscience

Publications: pubmed




Prof. Dr. Nicolas Langer
Methods of Plasticity Research, Department of Psychology, University of Zurich

Research Focus: Our lab develops and obtains new neurophysiological and neuroimaging measures in the context of human brain and behavioral plasticity. Specifically, we investigate the potential for plasticity, mechanisms for stabilization and compensation across the lifespan. In particular, we investigate the relationship between brain plasticity and cognitive functioning, such as perceptual processing, learning, (working-) memory, decision-making and processing speed.
In this context of neuroplasticity research, we are designing and implementing novel multi-modal paradigms (e.g. combined EEG eye-tracking), extracting and associate them with state of the art neuroscientific methods, such as functional network models, machine learning, longitudinal analyses and computational modeling. These paradigms can also be used to decompose the critical component processes underlying performance of the behavioral tests that are used routinely in clinical diagnosis. This multi-level, multi-modal design allows us to study cognitive performance and perception at their desired level of analysis, and to elucidate variations in performance across the continuum from healthy to pathological functioning. To investigate those research aims and objectives, we are using a variety of psychological and neuroscientific methods, such as EEG, eye-tracking, structural MRI & DTI, psychophysiology)
Keywords: EEG, eye-tracking, cognitive modeling, machine-learning, cognition, multi-modal imaging, structural MRI, DTI, development, neurophenotyping, Research Domain Criteria (RDoC).

Topics: Cognitive Neuroscience, Computation and Modeling, Neural Basis of Behavior, Development and Regeneration





Prof. Dr. Bigna Lenggenhager
Department of Psychology, University of Zurich

Research Focus: Our group investigates multisensory and neural mechanisms underlying the sense of a bodily. A main focus is put on the investigation of how plastic the bodily self is both in health as well in disease. We investigates how the sense of a bodily self develops during the life span. Using behavioral, neural and psychophysiological measures we study the mutual interaction between the perception of one's own body and cognitive, motivational and emotional and self-related processes.

Keywords: self consciousness, multisensory integration, plasticity, bodily illusions, interoception, virtual reality

Topics: Neural Basis of Behavior, Cognitive Neuroscience, Sensory Systems





Dr. Caroline Lustenberger
Department of Health Sciences and Technology, ETH Zurich

Research Focus: Identifying strategies to promote healthy ageing has gained considerable interest. Sleep represents a fundamental restorative process and is essential for our health. With increasing age, sleep quality can be greatly reduced and thus restorative processes less pronounced suggesting it to be a prime target to promote healthy ageing. Yet, efficient sleep interventions that can promote recovery processes of brain and body to promote the health span are not established because scientific insights in the causal role of specific sleep processes in these recovery processes are missing. My team’s research aims at identifying the role of brain activity during sleep in recovery processes of brain and body from young to old age. To do so, we will merge cutting-edge non-invasive (closed-loop) brain stimulation techniques to modulate sleep oscillations with advanced body (e.g. cardiovascular, metabolic) and brain assessments (e.g. EEG, cognitive functions) to delineate the causal role of sleep oscillations in these functions. Our findings might proof transformative for maintaining health up until old age and open completely new opportunities for modulating regenerative processes across the brain and body.

Keywords: sleep oscillations, high-density EEG, non-invasive closed-loop stimulation, memory consolidation, cognition, ageing, cardiovascular function and health, metabolic function and health, restoration

Topic: Sleep and sleep disorders, Cognitive Neuroscience



Mike Martin


Prof. Dr. Mike Martin
Dept of Psychology, Gerontopsychology, University of Zurich

Topic: Cognitive Neuroscience



Michels Lars


PD Dr. Lars Michels
Department of Neuroradiology, University Hospital of Zurich

Research Focus: My research foci are on the understanding of basic neurophysiological processes as well as structural and functional brain connectivity and plasticity during brain development, aging, and brain disorders (dementia and migraine). To address these questions, I am using a multimodal imaging (and neurostimulation) approach, including techniques such as structural MRI, spinal cord fMRI, high-density EEG, EEG-fMRI, (dynamic) ASL, MR spectroscopy, DTI, QSM, iVASO, WEPCAST, and tDCS. Currently, I am investigating the impact of real-time fMRI neurofeedback intervention on attention and visual brain processing and (tDCS) neurostimulation for reducing migraine.

Keywords: basic neurophysiology, multimodal brain imaging, aging, EEG-fMRI, neurostimulation, neurofeedback, short-term memory.

Topics: Cognitive neuroscience, Disorders of the Nervous System

Projects: project data bank UZH

Publications:   PUBMED   SCHOLAR

Website: Neuroradiology USZ (go to “Forschende”)



Prof. Dr. phil. Monique Pfaltz

Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University Hospital Zurich

Research Focus: Our research group specialises in peripheral physiology associated with emotion processing and the respective data collection and analysis methods. We are using ambulatory approaches as well as experimental laboratory research, including eye tracking analysis of video recordings to better understand emotion recognition, facial mimicry, emotion regulation, emotional reactivity and their biological foundations in clinical populations (e.g. borderline personality disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder) as well as the general population. A special focus lies on childhood and adult trauma related symptoms and their impact on emotional and social functioning.

Keywords: peripheral physiology, emotion processing, posttraumatic stress, ambulatory assessment strategies

Topics: Cognitive Neuroscience; Neural Basis of Behavior; Development and Regeneration

Publications: pubmed
Polania Rafael


Prof. Dr. Rafael Polania
Decision Neuroscience Lab, Department of Health Sciences and Technology, ETH Zurich

Research Focus: Humans do not react to the environment in a reflexive manner, but can freely choose which action to perform in response to a given situation. The neural processes that enable such flexible decision making are fundamental components of human cognition and have attracted a lot of interest from researchers in many scientific disciplines such as neuroscience, psychology, economics, and medicine.

The research agenda at the Decision Neuroscience Lab bridges these multiple disciplines across theoretical and empirical domains to establish important links between the computational, psychological and neural processes controlling human decision making, by providing both correlative and causal evidence that well-defined neural signals are indeed driving both computationally defined cognitive processes and the resulting behavior. This research thus has the potential to unite conceptually separate approaches to the study of distinct types of human behavior and thereby contribute information that is crucial for the diagnosis and treatment of psychiatric and neurological disorders involving decision-making pathologies (e.g. ADHD, obesity, addiction).

Topics: Cognitive Neuroscience, Computation and Modeling, Neural Basis of Behavior

Keywords: decision-making, EEG, fMRI, non-invasive brain stimulation, reward, perception, economics.

Publications: google-scholar

Boris Quednow