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

Mackay, S., Mo Aung Myint, D, Easingwood,R., Hegh, D., Wickens,J., Hyland, B, Jameson, G., Reynolds, J., Tan, E. (2019) Dynamic control of neurochemical release with ultrasonically sensitive nanoshell-tethered liposomes. Communications Chemistry (Accepted for publication).

Carrasco, A. Tamura, A, Pommer, S., Chouinard, J.A. Kurima, K., Barzaghi, P.,  Wickens, J.R. (2019) Multiparametric assessment of the impact of opsin expression and anesthesia on striatal cholinergic neurons and auditory brainstem activity. Journal of Comparative Neurology (In press)

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

Igarashi, M and Wickens, J  (2019) Kinematic analysis of bimanual movements during food handling by head-fixed ratsJournal of Neurophysiology 121:2, 490-499 

Shindou, T., Ochi-Shindou, M., Murayama, T., Saita, E., Momohara,Y.,  Wickens, J.R. & Maruyama, I.N. (2019)  Active propagation of dendritic electrical signals in C. elegans. Scientific Reports, 9, Article number: 3430 

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, Akamine, Y, Zucca, A, Zucca, S, Wickens, J.R., (2018) Cholinergic interneurons in the rat striatum modulate substitution of habits. European Journal of Neuroscience 47: 1194-1205. doi:10.1111/ejn.13820

Aoki S, Liu AW, Zucca A, Zucca S, Wickens JR. (2017) New variations in strategy set-shifting in the rat. Journal of Visualized Experiments (119) e55005.

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.

Aquili, L., Liu, A.W., Shindou, M., Shindou, T., Wickens, J.R. (2014) Behavioral flexibility is increased by optogenetic inhibition of neurons in the nucleus accumbens shell during specific time segments. Learning & Memory 21, 223-231.

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