Jeff Wickens


BMedSc, MB ChB, PhD (Otago)


New Zealand


Jeff Wickens is head of the Neurobiology Research Unit. He initially trained in medicine and worked clinically before undertaking a PhD in neuroscience at the University of Otago, New Zealand. His research concerns the neural mechanisms underlying learning and adaptive behavior in the mammalian brain. He 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. He previously held a personal chair at the University of Otago, and was director of the New Zealand Health Research Council Program on Behavioural and Cellular Mechanisms of Hyperactivity and Movement Disorders, and a member of the Scientific Advisory Council of the New Zealand Neurological Foundation. He is a member of the editorial board for Journal of Neuroscience Methods, Network, Computation in Neural Systems, and Basal Ganglia. He has published over 100 research papers, reviews and book chapters. 

Selected Publications

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.

Perk, C.G., Wickens, J.R., Hyland, B.I., 2015. Differing properties of putative fast-spiking interneurons in the striatum of two rat strains. Neuroscience 294:215-26.

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.

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