skip to primary navigation skip to content

Wolfram Schultz FRS

Wellcome Principal Research Fellow, Professor of Neuroscience
Tel: +44 (0)1223 333779, Fax: +44 (0)1223 333840, E-mail:
Visiting Research Associate, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena
Visiting Professor, Tamagawa University, Tokyo

OPEN Postdoctoral position for human neuroimaging of reward and decision-making (for details click here)

Reward processing in the brain
Our group is interested to relate the mechanics of brain activity to measurable behaviour. We combine behavioural, neurophysiological and neuroimaging (fMRI) methods to investigate the neural mechanisms of learning and economic decision making at the level of single neurons and individual brain structures. We use behavioural concepts from animal learning theory and economic decision theory to study neural reward signals in specific brain regions, including the dopamine system, striatum, orbitofrontal cortex and amygdala. We currently investigate basic reward and risk decision variables, reward prediction errors, learning, irrational decisions and social interactions.

Laboratory members

Alaa Al-Mohammad (BSc Univ Cambridge)
Raymundo Baez (PhD Univ Cambridge, MSc Max-Planck Tübingen)
Charlotte R. van Coeverden (MSc Univ Amsterdam)
Helen Cousins (Computer Associate) (MSc Univ Cambridge)
Aled H. David (Lab manager) (BSc Univ Derby)
Kelly M J Diederen (PhD Univ Utrecht)
Simone Ferrari Toniolo (PhD Univ Rome)
Wilfried Genest (BSc Univ Cambridge)
Fabian Grabenhorst (PhD Univ Oxford)
Armin Lak (PhD Univ Cambridge, MSc Sissa Trieste)
Alex Pastor-Bernier (PhD Univ Montreal, MSc Univ Oslo)
William R. Stauffer (PhD Univ Pittsburgh)
Martin Vestergaard (PhD Tech Univ Copenhagen)
Leopold Zangemeister (BSc Univ Edinburgh)

Main collaborations

Ralph Adolphs, Charles R. Plott, Ueli Rütishauser (Caltech)
Christopher Harris (Economics Univ Cambridge)
Anthony Dickinson (Psychology Univ Cambridge)
Paul Fletcher (Psychiatry Univ Cambridge)
Florian Mormann (Univ Bonn)
Peter Bossaerts (Univ Melbourne)
Aldo Rustichini (Univ Minnesota)
Masamichi Sakagami (Tamagawa Univ)

Main funding
Wellcome Trust, European Research Council, NIH Conte Center Caltech.

Prizes and honours
Thompson 99th percentile citations 2002-2012, Fellow EMBO 2014, Zülch Prize 2013, EJN FENS Award 2010, Fellow Royal Society 2009, Ipsen Prize 2005, Golden Brain Award 2002, Theodore-Ott-Prize 1997, Ellermann Prize 1984.

Named Lectures
Brenda Milner Lecture Montreal 2014, Woolsey Lecture Madison 2012, Eli Lilly Lecture Montreal 2011, Mars Lecture, Florida 2011, Kavli Lecture Soc Neuroecon Evanston 2010,  Roger Brown Louks Lecture Seattle 2009,  Netherlands Cognition Lecture Amsterdam 2008, Paul-Flechsig-Lecture Leipzig 2006, Presidential Lecture Biol Psych Atlanta 2005, Pfizer Lecture SfN San Diego 2004, Special Lecture JNS Osaka 2004, Hans-Lukas-Teuber Lecture MIT 2001, NIH Director’s Lecture Bethesda 1999, EBBS ENA Lecture Strassbourg 1996, Brooks Lecture Harvard 1993.

Selected publications
Stauffer WR, Lak A, Schultz W. Dopamine reward prediction error responses reflect marginal utility. Curr Biol 2014 (in press)

Lak A, Stauffer WR, Schultz W. Dopamine prediction error responses integrate subjective value from different reward dimensions. Proc Natl Acad Sci (USA) 111: 2343-2348, 2014

Kobayashi S, Schultz W. Reward contexts extend dopamine signals to unrewarded stimuli. Curr Biol 24: 56-62, 2014

Báez-Mendoza R, Harris C, Schultz W. Activity of striatal neurons reflects social action and own reward. Proc Natl Acad Sci (USA) 110: 16634-16639, 2013

O'Neill, M, Schultz W. Risk prediction error coding in orbitofrontal neurons. J Neurosci 33: 15810-15814, 2013

d'Acremont M, Schultz W, Bossaerts P. The human brain encodes event frequencies while forming subjective beliefs. J Neurosci 33: 10887-10897, 2013

Schultz W. Updating dopamine reward signals. Curr Op Neurobiol 23: 229-238, 2013 download pdf

Grabenhorst F, Hernadi I, Schultz W. Prediction of economic choice by amygdala neurons. Proc Natl Acad Sci (USA) 109: 18950-18955, 2012

Bermudez M, Schultz W. Sensitivity to temporal reward structure in amygdala neurons. Curr Biol 22: 1839-1844, 2012

Hare TA, Schultz W, Camerer CF, O'Doherty JP, Rangel A. Transformation of stimulus value signals into motor commands during simple choice. Proc Natl Acad Sci (USA) 108: 18120-18125, 2011 download pdf

Schultz W. Potential vulnerabilities of neuronal reward, risk, and decision mechanisms to addictive drugs. Neuron 69: 603-617, 2011

O'Neill M, Schultz W. Coding of reward risk by orbitofrontal neurons is mostly distinct from coding of reward value. Neuron 68: 789-800, 2010

Burke CJ, Tobler PN, Baddeley M, Schultz W. Neuronal mechanisms of observational learning. Proc Natl Acad Sci (USA) 107: 14431-14436, 2010 download pdf, suppl mat pdf

Schultz W. Dopamine signals for reward value and risk: basic and recent data. Behav Brain Funct 6:24, 2010

Bermudez MA, Schultz W. Responses of amygdala neurons to positive reward predicting stimuli depend on background reward (contingency) rather than stimulus-reward pairing (contiguity). J Neurophysiol 103: 1158-1170, 2010

Kobayashi S, Pinto de Carvalho O, Schultz W. Adaptation of reward sensitivity in orbitofrontal neurons. J Neurosci 30: 534-544, 2010

Tobler PN, Christopoulos GI, O'Doherty JP, Dolan RJ, Schultz W. Risk-dependent reward value signal in human prefrontal cortex. Proc Natl Acad Sci (USA) 106: 7185-7190, 2009 download pdf, suppl mat pdf

Gregorios-Pippas L, Tobler PN, Schultz W. Short term temporal discounting of reward value in human ventral striatum. J Neurophysiol 101: 1507-1523, 2009 download pdf

Christopoulos GI, Tobler PN, Bossaerts P, Dolan RJ, Schultz W. Neural correlates of value, risk, and risk aversion contributing to decision making under risk. J Neurosci. 29: 12574-12583, 2009 download pdf

Kobayashi S, Schultz W. Influence of reward delays on responses of dopamine neurons. J Neurosci 28: 7837-7846, 2008

Hare TA, O’Doherty J, Camerer CF, Schultz W, Rangel A. Dissociating the role of the orbitofrontal cortex and the striatum in the computation of goal values and prediction errors. J Neurosci 28: 5623-5630, 2008 download pdf

Tobler PN, O'Doherty JP, Dolan R, Schultz W. Reward value coding distinct from risk attitude-related uncertainty coding in human reward systems. J Neurophysiol 97: 1621-1632, 2007 download pdf

Schultz W. Multiple dopamine functions at different time courses. Ann Rev Neurosci 30: 259-288, 2007 download pdf

Schultz W. Behavioral theories and the neurophysiology of reward. Ann Rev Psychol 57: 87-115, 2006 download pdf, Podcast

Tobler PN, Fiorillo CD, Schultz W. Adaptive coding of reward value by dopamine neurons. Science 307: 1642-1645, 2005

Fiorillo CD, Tobler PN, Schultz W. Discrete coding of reward probability and uncertainty by dopamine neurons. Science 299: 1898-1902, 2003

Waelti P, Dickinson A, Schultz W. Dopamine responses comply with basic assumptions of formal learning theory. Nature 412: 43-48, 2001

Tremblay L, Schultz W. Relative reward preference in primate orbitofrontal cortex. Nature 398: 704-708, 1999

Schultz W. Predictive reward signal of dopamine neurons. J Neurophysiol. 80: 1-27, 1998

Hollerman JR, Schultz W. Dopamine neurons report an error in the temporal prediction of reward during learning. Nature Neurosci 1: 304-309, 1998

Schultz W, Dayan P, Montague RR. A neural substrate of prediction and reward. Science 275: 1593-1599, 1997

Mirenowicz J, Schultz W. Preferential activation of midbrain dopamine neurons by appetitive rather than aversive stimuli. Nature 379: 449-451, 1996

Schultz W, Apicella P, Ljungberg T. Responses of monkey dopamine neurons to reward and conditioned stimuli during successive steps of learning a delayed response task. J Neurosci 13: 900-913, 1993

Schultz W, Romo R. Role of primate basal ganglia and frontal cortex in the internal generation of movements: I. Preparatory activity in the anterior striatum. Exp Brain Res 91: 363-384, 1992

Romo R, Schultz W. Dopamine neurons of the monkey midbrain: Contingencies of responses to active touch during self-initiated arm movements. J Neurophysiol 63: 592-606, 1990

Schultz W. Responses of midbrain dopamine neurons to behavioral trigger stimuli in the monkey. J Neurophysiol 56: 1439-1462, 1986