PhD students in 2021

Lab hike to the Königstuhl in 2023

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Christoph W. Korn

Principal Investigator

In December 2020, I have started an Assistant Professorship (tenure-track) of Social Neuroscience at Heidelberg University (Section Social Neuroscience, Department of General Adult Psychiatry).

In December 2018, I have been awarded an Emmy-Noether research group on the topic “Human cooperation: A multimodal approach” by the German Research Foundation (DFG), which has given my the wonderful opportunity to establish a group at the Institute of Systems Neuroscience (University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, UKE, Hamburg).

Before I worked as a postdoc at the same institution in the group of Jan Gläscher within the Transregional Collaborative Research Center on Crossmodal Learning (TRR 169). Additionally, I could embark on several research stays at Harvard University thanks to co-funding by the German Academic Exchange Service.

I did a postdoc at the University of Zurich in the group of Dominik Bach. I completed my PhD at the Freie Universität Berlin in the group of Hauke Heekeren with funding from the Berlin School of Mind and Brain. During a joint Master’s program by University College London, École Normale Supérieure, Paris, and Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris. I worked in the group of Ray Dolan under the supervision of Tali Sharot. I obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Biomedicine from the University of Würzburg.

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Koen Frolichs

Graduate Student

Before joining the DNHI-lab, I received a BSc in Psychology and a Research MSc in Cognitive Neuroscience from Maastricht University. For my Master’s Thesis, I worked with Mario Senden and Rainer Goebel attempting to reconstruct complex visual shapes from activity in early visual cortex.

In the DNHI-lab I am working on understanding how humans learn about others’ personalities. We approach this from multiple angles, where on the one hand we use computational models to understand what social knowledge structures humans use during learning about others, and on the other, test if and how these structures are represented in the cortex using neuroimaging.

My bigger aim would be to find generalized coding principles that are employed throughout the cortex. I am convinced that well designed computational models combined with a solid theoretical background can have a big impact in the future on aims such as these!


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Benjamin Kuper-Smith

Graduate Student

Before joining the DNHI-lab, I received a BSc in Psychology from Goldsmiths College and an MSc in Brain and Mind Sciences, hosted in the first year at University College London, and at Université Pierre et Marie Curie and Ecole Normale Supérieure during the second year. I completed two MSc projects, one in Karl Friston‘s lab, looking at the neural implementation of different kinds of expectation in the context of predictive coding, and the other in Aaron Schurger‘s lab, comparing planned and spontaneous actions, using M/EEG. Between my BSc and MSc, I worked as a research assistant, first in Nottingham studying social dilemmas in a public goods game under the supervision of Anya Skatova, and then researching full-body illusions in Stockholm with Catherine Preston and Henrik Ehrsson.

In the DNHI-lab I will be working on cooperative decision-making in a new variant of the Prisoner’s Dilemma, using a combination of behavioural testing, computational modelling, and fMRI.

I have also recently started a podcast, in which I interview (mainly) neuroscientists and psychologists about their work. You can find the BJKS Podcast on its website, and on all the main podcasting platforms (e.g., Apple Podcasts, Spotify, etc.).



Lisa Doppelhofer

Graduate Student

I am interested in social preferences and how they relate to social decision-making. Specifically, I aim to understand how humans approximate optimal decisions in social tasks and how they share payoffs between themselves and others. As part of my PhD project, I will also investigate why borderline personality disorder patients often fail to establish and maintain cooperation. To address these questions I combine game-theoretic paradigms, computational modeling, and fMRI.  

Before joining the DNHI-lab, I received an MSc in Psychology (Mind and Brain Track) at the University of Vienna. For my Master’s Thesis, I worked at the SCAN-Unit on a project on placebo and nocebo effects on reinforcement learning under the supervision of Isabella Wagner and Claus Lamm.



Sihui Zhang (张思慧)

Graduate Student

Before joining the DNHI-lab, I received a MSc in Psychology at State Key Laboratory of
Cognitive Neuroscience and Learning at the Beijing Normal University. For my Master’s Thesis, I
worked under the supervision of Chao Liu on the effect of emotions on prosocial behavior.

In the DHNI-lab, I will combine behavioral testing, computational modeling, and fMRI analyses
to investigate the behavioral patterns and neural mechanisms of how people make allocation
decisions when cooperating with others. I also want to specify how and why
people with adverse childhood experiences make different allocation decisions and show
distinct social preferences compared to healthy individuals.


Sergej Golowin

Graduate Student

I am an enthusiast for understanding the pragmatic reasons of the evolved human mind and its logic in its evolutionary context. I want to understand the circumstances which have led to the functional characteristics of the human brain. Specifically, I aim to investigate the trade-off between robust and flexible applications of decision strategies. During my PhD, my goal is to characterize the processes underlying this trade-off and potentially use this knowledge to expand the understanding of psychiatric conditions such as borderline personality disorder. In order to do so, I use foraging decision games with competing decision rules to induce cognitive processes involving meta decision-making, which will be analyzed behaviorally (with computational models) and neurally (with fMRI).

Before joining the DNHI-lab, I received an MSc in the International Graduate Program in Medicine at the Taipei Medical University (TMU). For my Master’s Thesis, I worked under the supervision of Niall Duncan from the Graduate Institute of Mind, Brain and Consciousness at TMU. We aimed to explore people’s foraging decision making under predation risk.

Xiong Hu (胡雄)

Graduate Student

Prior to joining the DNHI-lab, I obtained my Bachelor’s Degree in the Department of Psychology at Hubei University and my Master’s Degree in the School of Psychology at Capital Normal University.

During my Master’s program at the Optimism Lab headed by Wang Yan, I worked on dispositional optimism for half a year until an intense interest in unrealistic optimism / optimism bias took over. I conducted two behavioural studies to investigate how feedback providers’ warmth and competence influence receivers’ optimism bias.

For my doctoral studies I will employ behavioural testing, computational modeling, eye tracking, and neuroimaging to explore the underpinnings of how to harness and augment optimism bias in social interactions. Another aim is to analyse existing psychometric tests and develop a standardized and practical tool to measure optimism bias. I will also focus on research in the fields of design psychology and environmental psychology.

In my spare time, I enjoy cooking, hiking, and flaneuring. Worthy of note is that I am good at cooking Chinese cuisine. I bought a Fender Telecaster in April 2023 and I am optimistic that my guitar playing skills will reach a higher level when I leave Heidelberg.



Dr. Ismail Guennouni

AIH Postdoctoral Fellow

I joined the lab on a Postdoctoral fellowship from the AI Health Innovation Cluster, working with both the university of Heidelberg and the Z.I Mannheim on developing computational models of social interactions as a basis for adaptive gamified treatment approaches.

Following an MSc in Cognitive and Decision Sciences and an MRes in Computer Science with a focus on Machine Learning at University College London, I received a PhD in Experimental Psychology with a focus on experimental and computations approaches to strategic social interaction. My research aims to investigate the differential aspects of social learning in mental health disorders. I am particularly interested in exploring whether cognitive interventions inspired by leading psychotherapies can be combined with computational modelling of behaviour to address social learning dysfunction inherent in many mental health disorders.

Heike Hager


All-round talent


Giulia Parola

During my post-graduation internship at the DHNI-lab, I will combine and analyze data from a social learning and decision-making task, computational modeling, and pupillometry to investigate if and how the prediction error updating in rating other people’s traits can cause psychophysiological responses.

Johanna Löloff

Master student in Psychology at the University of Heidelberg.
Research assistant helping with behavioural testing and writing Master thesis in the lab.

Faizan Shaikh

Master student at the Deggendorf Institute of Technology.
Is writing his Master thesis about deep reinforcement learning for cognitive neuroscience in the lab.

Julian Meuren

Master student in Psychology at the University of Heidelberg.
Research assistant helping with behavioural testing and writing Master thesis in the lab.

Josh Hindemarsh

Phd student at Max Planck School of Cognition. Doing a rotation in the lab.

Ralitsa Kostova

Bachelor student in Psychology at the University of Heidelberg.
Writing Bachelor thesis in the lab.


Student assistants

Inga von Kortzfleisch

Master student in Psychology at the University of Heidelberg.
Research assistant helping with behavioural testing.

Sara Kranzhoefer

Master student in Psychology at the University of Mannheim.
Research assistant helping with behavioural testing.