ZiF Research Group

Cognitive Behavior of Humans, Animals, and Machines:

Situation Model Perspectives

October 2019 – July 2020

Convenors: Werner Schneider (Bielefeld, GER), Helge Ritter (Bielefeld, GER)

Christian Doeller

Associate Fellow

FotoMax Planck Institute (MPI) for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences,
Leipzig, Germany,
Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience, NTNU, Trondheim, Norway
E-Mail: doeller@cbs.mpg.de


Christian Doeller is Director of the Department of Psychology at the MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig and is affiliated with the Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience at NTNU, Trondheim (doellerlab.com). He studied psychology and computer science at several Universities (Würzburg, Humboldt University Berlin and Bonn, MPI Munich and Leipzig, University Hospital Bonn). After his PhD with Axel Mecklinger (Saarbrücken) in 2005, he worked with Neil Burgess at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London. In 2010, he was appointed as Principal Investigator and Associate Professor at the Donders Institute, Radboud University, Nijmegen. In 2016, he became Director of the Braathen-Kavli Centre at the Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience and Professor of Medicine & Neuroscience at NTNU, Trondheim. He made key discoveries in cognitive neuroscience (e.g., documented in Nature, Science, Nature Neuroscience) and received fellowships and prizes (e.g., ERC Starting Grant, ERC Consolidator Grant, NWO-Vidi award).

Current Main Research Interests

The fundamental question in cognitive neuroscience —what are the key coding principles of the brain enabling human thinking— still remains largely unanswered. In our long-term aim to tackle this question, we use two model systems: human memory and the neural population code for space. Our framework is concerned with the key idea that the navigation system in the brain —potentially as a result of evolution— provides a fundamental neural metric for human cognition. Specifically, we propose that the brain represents experience in so-called 'cognitive spaces'. We test the overarching model that —akin to representing places and paths in a spatial map— similar coding principles are involved in the formation of cognitive spaces. Importantly, in our experimental framework we investigate if these domain-general principles support a broad range of our fundamental cognitive functions, ranging from spatial navigation, memory formation, learning, imagination, and perception to time processing, decision making, and knowledge acquisition.

Five selected publications with particular relevance to the Research Group
  • Theves, S., Fernandez, G., & Doeller, C. F. (2019). The Hippocampus Encodes Distances in Multidimensional Feature Space. Current Biology, 29, 1226-1231.e3. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2019.02.035.
  • Bellmund, J. L., Gärdenfors, P., Moser, E. I., & Doeller, C. F. (2018). Navigating cognition: Spatial codes for human thinking. Science, 362(6415), eaat6766. doi:10.1126/science.aat6766.
  • Nau, M., Schröder, T. N., Bellmund, J. L., & Doeller, C. F. (2018). Hexadirectional coding of visual space in human entorhinal cortex. Nature Neuroscience, 21, 188-190. doi:10.1038/s41593-017-0050-8.
  • Kunz, L., Schröder, T. N., Lee, H., Montag, C., Lachmann, B., Sariyska, R., Reuter, M., Stirnberg, R., Stöker, T., Messing-Floeter, P. C., Fell, J., Doeller*, C. F., & Axmacher*, N. (2015). Reduced grid-cell-like representations in adults at genetic risk for Alzheimer's disease. Science, 350, 430-433. doi:10.1126/science.aac8128.
    *contributed equally
  • Collin, S. H., Milivojevic, B., & Doeller, C. F. (2015). Memory hierarchies map onto the hippocampal long axis in humans. Nature Neuroscience, 18), 1562-1564. doi:10.1038/nn.4138.