Jeff Wickens


BMedSc, MB ChB, PhD (Otago)


New Zealand


Jeff Wickens leads the Neurobiology Research Unit. The unit's research concerns the neural mechanisms underlying learning and adaptive behavior in the mammalian brain, and uses a combination of experimental and computational approaches focused on the striatum of the basal ganglia and the neuromodulators, dopamine and acetylcholine, that play a central role in the cellular mechanisms of reinforcement.

Recent and Selected Publications

Li, Y.-T.,  Huang, Y.-L.,  Chen, J.-J. J.,  Hyland, B. I., &  Wickens, J. R. (2024).  Phasic dopamine signals are reduced in the spontaneously hypertensive rat and increased by methylphenidate. European Journal of Neuroscience,  1–18.

Tripp G, & Wickens J. (2024) Using rodent data to elucidate dopaminergic mechanisms of ADHD: Implications for human personality. Personality Neuroscience. 7:e2. doi:10.1017/pen.2023.12

Matityahu, L., Gilin, N., Sarpong, G.A., Atamna, Y., Tiroshi, L., Tritsch, N.X., Wickens, J.R. & Goldberg, J.A. (2023) Acetylcholine waves and dopamine release in the striatum. Nature Communications 14, 6852.

Silic, B., Aggarwal, M., Liyanagama, K., Tripp, G. & Wickens, J.R. (2023) Conditioned approach behavior of SHR and SD rats during Pavlovian conditioning. Behavioural Brain Research443, 114348

Ponzi A & Wickens J (2022) Ramping activity in the striatum. Frontiers in Computational Neuroscience  16:902741. doi: 10.3389/fncom.2022.902741

Carrasco, A., Oorschot, D.E., Barzaghi, P. & Wickens, J.R. (2022) Three-dimensional spatial analyses of cholinergic neuronal distributions across the mouse septum, nucleus basalis, globus pallidus, nucleus accumbens, and caudate-putamen. Neuroinformatics20, 1121-1136.

Fuller JA, Burrell MH, Yee AG, Liyanagama K, Lipski J, Wickens JR, Hyland BI. (2019) Role of homeostatic feedback mechanisms in modulating methylphenidate actions on phasic dopamine signaling in the striatum of awake behaving rats. Progress in Neurobiology (ePrint ahead of publication)

Aoki S, Smith JB, Li H, Yan X, Igarashi M, Coulon P, Wickens JR, Ruigrok TJ, Jin X. (2019) An open cortico-basal ganglia loop allows limbic control over motor output via the nigrothalamic pathway. eLife 8

Shindou, T, Shindou, M, Watanabe, S and Wickens, J (2019) A silent eligibility trace enables dopamine dependent synaptic plasticity for reinforcement learning in the mouse striatum. European Journal of Neuroscience 49: 726-736. doi:10.1111/ejn.13921

Zucca, S, Zucca, A, Nakano, T, Aoki, S., Wickens, J.R. (2018), Pauses in cholinergic interneuron firing exert an inhibitory control on striatal output in vivo. eLife 7:e32510, 1-20.

Aoki S, Liu AW, Zucca A, Zucca S, Wickens JR. (2015) Role of striatal cholinergic interneurons in set-shifting in the rat. Journal of Neuroscience. 24; 35:9424-31.

Nakano, T., Chin, C., Myint, D.M.A., Tan, E.W., Hale, P.J., M., K.M.B., Reynolds, J.N.J., Wickens, J., Dani, K.M. (2014) Mimicking subsecond neurotransmitter dynamics with femtosecond laser stimulated nanosystems. Scientific Reports 4, 1-6.

Shindou, T., Ochi-Shindou, M. and Wickens, J.R. (2011) A Ca2+ threshold for induction of spike-timing dependent depression in the mouse striatum. Journal of Neuroscience 31: 13015-22.

Ponzi, A. and Wickens, J.R. (2010) Sequentially switching cell assemblies in random inhibitory networks of spiking neurons in the striatum. Journal of Neuroscience, 30, 5894-5911.

Tripp, G. and Wickens, J.R., (2009) Neurobiology of ADHD. Neuropharmacology  57, 579-589.

Tunstall, M.J., Oorschot, D.E., Kean, A.J. & Wickens, J.R. Inhibitory interactions between spiny projection neurons in the rat striatum. Journal of Neurophysiology 88: 1263-1269 (2002).

Reynolds, J., Hyland, B.I. and Wickens, J.R. A cellular mechanism of reward-related learning. Nature 413, 67-70 (2001).



Medical Research Council Research Award, Medical Research Council of New Zealand, 1978

Smith, Kline and French Prize in Psychological Medicine, with distinction, University of Otago, 1982

Douglas Iverach Postgraduate Fellowship in Medicine, University of Otago, 1989

FIDIA Research Foundation Travel Award to attend the International School of Neuroscience, Padua, Italy, 1991

Australian Neuroscience Society Paxinos-Watson Prize in Neuroscience (co-recipient), 2010