Wolfram Schultz

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Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience. University of Cambridge. UK.


Systems Neuroscience and Cognition

Title of the talk:
Neuronal signals for economic utility



Wolfram Schultz received degrees in medicine and physiology from the Universities of Heidelberg, Germany, and Fribourg, Switzerland. He did postdoctoral work at the Max-Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen, SUNY Buffalo and Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, was junior and senior faculty at the University of Fribourg and in 2001 moved to Cambridge University. He was a Visiting Scientist at the Tokyo Metropolitan Institute for Neuroscience and is a Visiting Professor at Tamagawa University and Visiting Research Associate at Caltech, Pasadena. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society, has been awarded several prizes, is a past president of the European Brain and Behaviour Society, and has served on national and international scientific councils and committees.



Prof. Wolfram Schultz

1966-1973. Studies in medicine, mathematics (1971 Vordiplom=Bachelor’s) and philosophy, Universities of Hamburg and Heidelberg, Germany

1972. Diploma in Medicine and Dr. med. University of Heidelberg; German Medical Approbation; ECFMG

1981. Habilitation (advanced PhD) in Physiology, University of Fribourg, Switzerland.




Sep 1972-Dec 1973. Medical Internship

Jul 1973-Feb 1975 Postdoctoral collaborator, Section of Neurobiology, Max-Planck-Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, Göttingen, Germany (with O.D. Creutzfeldt)

Feb 1975-Feb 1976 Postdoctoral collaborator (Research Assistant Professor ), Laboratory of Neurobiology, Dept. of Physiology, State University of New York at Buffalo, U.S.A. (with Sir John C. Eccles).

Feb 1976-Apr 1977 Postdoctoral collaborator, Swedish Medical Research Council, Dept. of Histology, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden (with U. Ungerstedt)

May 1977-Sep 2001 Institute of Physiology, University of Fribourg, Switzerland: 1977 Chef de Travaux, 1981 Privat-docent, 1986 Assistant-Associate Professor (personal position), 1996 Professor and Chair of Neurophysiology.

Oct 2001-now Wellcome Principal Research Fellow and Professor of Neuroscience (2002), Dept. of Physiology, Development & Neuroscience, University of Cambridge, UK

2004-now Fellow, Churchill College Cambridge (Teaching 2004-2012, Professorial 2012-now)


Wolfram Schultz is interested to relate the mechanics of brain activity to measurable behaviour. He combines behavioural, neurophysiological and neuroimaging techniques to investigate the neural mechanisms of learning and economic decision making at the level of single neurons and individual brain structures. He uses behavioural concepts from animal learning theory and economic decision theories to study the neurophysiology and neuroimaging of reward and risk in individual neurons and in specific brain regions, including the dopamine system, striatum, orbitofrontal cortex and amygdala.

Wolfram Schultz discovered the phasic reward signal of dopamine neurons and characterised its coding of reward prediction error. His group also discovered the first neuronal risk signals, and he imaged the first human brain reward signal with Nico Leenders. His current interests concern adaptive and reference dependent reward value coding (a corner stone of Prospect Theory), influence of risk on reward value (as conceptualised by economic decision theory), neuronal coding of economic utility, reward and decision signals in amygdala, and reward processing in social settings. These studies stimulated the current experimental and theoretical interests in reinforcement learning and neuroeconomics.

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