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Hendrikje Nienborg, M.D., Ph.D.



Research interests: Neuroscience, Neurophysiology, Neurodevelopment

Contact Information:


49 Convent Dr
Building 49, Room 2A50
Bethesda, Maryland 20892


Dr. Hendrikje Nienborg received her medical and doctoral degrees from the Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich, Germany, interrupted by a Master in Neuroscience from the University of Oxford, UK. She conducted postdoctoral work at the National Eye Institute and at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, CA, before leading her own research group at the University of Tuebingen, Germany. She joined the NEI as an investigator in the fall of 2019. She is also a NIH Distinguished Scholar.  Her research received funding from a K99/R00 award from the NEI, the Kavli foundation, a starting grant from the European Research Council and the German Research Foundation (DFG)

Current research

As primates, humans strongly rely on vision to guide behavior. We often need to make sense of a wealth of visual information under variable conditions, in novel environments, varying behavioral or cognitive states and to accomplish different tasks. The research in our laboratory aims to help uncover how processing in the brain supports this flexibility for visually guided decision-making.

Our lab uses computational, behavioral, pharmacological, optogenetic, large-scale electrophysiological, and, through collaboration, machine learning approaches to address the questions driving our research:

  1. how are cognitive and sensory signals integrated in the visual cortex?
  2. how do non-visual context, such as motivation, behavioral state or learning, and the involved neuromodulatory circuits influence the encoding of the incoming visual signals?
  3. how are these combined signals used to guide behavior in healthy mammalian brains?

Answering these questions is aimed at improving our understanding of how these mechanisms fail in psychiatric and neurological diseases.

Selected publications

Talluri*, Kang*, Lazere, Quinn, Kaliss, Yates, Butts, Nienborg: Activity in primate visual cortex is minimally driven by spontaneous movements. Nat Neurosci 26:1953–1959 (2023)( *: equal contribution

Quinn, Seillier, Butts, Nienborg, Decision-related feedback in visual cortex lacks spatial selectivity Nat Commun (2021) 12, Article number: 4473

Nienborg, Meyer Neuroscience needs behavior: inferring psychophysical strategy trial-by-trial. Neuron (2021) 109:561-563 doi:

Macke, Nienborg Choice (-history) correlations in sensory cortex: cause or consequence? Current Opin Neurobiol (2019) 58:148-154. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2019.09.005

Kawaguchi, Clery, Seillier, Pourriahi, Haefner, Nienborg: Differentiating between Models of Perceptual Decision Making Using Pupil Size Inferred Confidence J Neurosci (2018) 38:8874-8888. J Neurosci (2018) 38:8874-8888. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0735-18.2018

Jacob, Nienborg: Monoaminergic neuromodulation of sensory processing Front Neural Circuits (2018) 10;12:51. doi: 10.3389/fncir.2018.00051

Lueckmann, Macke*, Nienborg*: Can serial dependencies in choices and neural activity explain choice probability? J Neurosci, (2018) 38:3495-3506. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2225-17.2018

Seillier*, Lorenz*, Kawaguchi, Ott, Nieder, Pourriahi, Nienborg: Serotonin decreases the gain of visual responses inawake macaque V1 J Neurosci, (2017): 37:11390-405 doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1339-17.2017

Last updated: November 9, 2023