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.

Selected Publications

Shindou, T, Shindou, M, Watanabe, S and Wickens, J. A silent eligibility trace enables dopamine dependent synaptic plasticity for reinforcement learning in the mouse striatum. European Journal of Neuroscience (in press).

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 (in press)

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 (in press)

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