History of the Zurich Center for Neuroeconomics

History of the Zurich Center for Neuroeconomics

The foundations of the Zurich Center for Neuroeconomics (ZNE) were laid in 2007 when the Laboratory for Social and Neural Systems Research (SNS Lab) was founded thanks to the generous support from Branco Weiss, the University of Zurich, and the University Hospital Zurich. In its first decade, it has grown to become a globally leading center for neuro and brain science, focusing on decision-making and economic behavior.

 

SNS-Lab

The SNS Lab is the heart of the ZNE. It was built in the MR section of the Universtity Hospital Zurich by Hemmi Fayet Architekten (Zurich), headed by Petra Hemmi and Serge Fayet, in 2007-2008. Shortly thereafter, we received a number of paintings by Silvia Bächli on loan to grace the walls of the lab.

The SNS Lab Opening Symposium took place on 4 June, 2010. Leading experts in the fields of social neuroscience, neuroeconomics, and computational neuroeconomics spoke at the symposium: John A. Bargh, Michael Breakspear, Karl J. Friston, Elizabeth A. Phelps, Russell A. Poldrack, and Antonio Rangel.

 

Key People and Events

The founders of the SNS Lab Ernst Fehr, Tania Singer, and Klaas Enno Stephan began by bringing scientists from the social and natural sciences together to work toward uncovering and understanding the mechanistic links between neuronal circuits, decision making, and social behavior. This continues to be our strategy and mission.

Christian Ruff joined in April 2009 as Assistant Professor to set up the brain stimulation facilities. Before that, he was Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at University College London, UK.

Karl Treiber (Lab Manager, Senior Radiographer) started in 2009 and has taken responsibility for the general lab infrastructure, all practical aspects of MRI studies, organization of lab safety courses, and the qualified user training program for scientists since that time.

Marco Piccirelli (Physics) joined us in 2009 and oversaw the installation and quality checks of the MRI scanner for the first several years. He moved on to serve as the Chief of MR physics in the Neuroradiology Dept. at the University Hospital Zurich in 2013.  

Stefan Schmid joined us in 2009 and is in charge of the IT infrastructure and is responsible for software engineering and programming support.

Philippe Tobler joined us in July 2010, as Assistant Professor of Neuroeconomics and Social Neuroscience. Before that, he was Royal Society University Research Fellow at the Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford. He was appointed Associate Professor for Neuroeconomics and Social Neuroscience by the Board of the University in June 2016.

Tania Singer left Zurich in August 2010 to assume her new position as Director at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, Germany. She now heads the Department of Social Neuroscience there.

Todd Hare joined us in November 2010, as Assistant Professor of Neuroeconomics. Before that, he was Postdoctoral Scholar in Neuroeconomics at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). He was appointed Associate Professor for Neuroeconomics and Human Development by the Board of the University in February 2017.

In 2012, Klaas Eno Stephan created and began directing the Translational Neuromodeling Unit at the University of Zurich and ETH Zurich. Nevertheless, he remains actively involved with the SNS Lab.

Gábor Stefanics joined us in 2013. In addition to conducting his own research program, he has been responsible for setting up and managing the EEG lab.

Zoltan Nagy joined us 2013 as the Head of MRI Physics. Before that he was an MRI physicist at the Wellcome Trust Center for Neuroimaging, University College London.

In 2017, we launched the Marlene Porsche Graduate School of Neuroeconomics. Thanks to a generous donation by the Marlene Porsche Foundation, this interdisciplinary program offers young scientists the possibility to achieve a doctoral degree in this innovative area of research.

Carlos Alós-Ferrer joined us as the NOMIS Professor of Decision and Neuroeconomic Theory in March 2018. The professorship was established in partnership with the NOMIS Foundation.