History of the SNS Lab

The Laboratory for Social and Neural Systems Research (SNS Lab) was founded in 2007 thanks to generous support from Branco Weiss, the University of Zurich, and the University Hospital Zurich. It was built 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.

Founders Ernst Fehr, Tania Singer, and Klaas Enno Stephan then brought together scientists from the social and natural sciences (including neuroscience, economics, psychology, and physics) who study the mechanistic links between neuronal circuits, decision making, and social behavior.

Christian Ruff joined us in April 2009 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. He is now Assistant Professor for Brain Stimulation in Neuroeconomics.

Most of the research core personnel was also hired in 2009. Karl Treiber (Lab Manager, Senior Radiographer) 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. Marco Piccirelli (Physics) oversaw the installation and quality checks of the MRI scanner and is in charge of all MRI physics-associated aspects, such as developing pulse sequences and ensuring MRI compatibility of peripheral devices. Adrian Etter (Electrical Engineer, Scientific Programmer, TCG Coordinator) is responsible for the technical infrastructure, including the construction or purchase of peripheral devices and the development of specialized scientific software for measurements and quality control. Stefan Schmid is in charge of the IT infrastructure and is responsible for software engineering and programming support. Gábor Stefanics (EEG) set up and manages the EEG lab. His recruitment marked the completion of our search for highly qualified research core personnel, fondly referred to as our TCG (Technical Competence Groups).

With the research core personnel in place, in May 2009, we were able to run the first experiments.

The SNS Lab Opening Symposium took place on June 4, 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.

Philippe Tobler joined us in July 2010, assuming his new position 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.

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. She continues her association with the SNS Lab as an Honorary Research Fellow.

Todd Hare joined us in November 2010, assuming his new position as Assistant Professor of Neuroeconomics. Before that, he was Postdoctoral Scholar in Neuroeconomics at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).

Philippe Tobler was appointed Associate Professor for Neuroeconomics and Social Neuroscience by the Board of the University in June 2016.