Dr Lei Zhang BSc, MSc, PhD

Dr Lei Zhang

School of Psychology
Associate Professor
Director of Postgraduate Research

Dr. Lei Zhang is a cognitive computational neuroscientist. He directs the Adaptive Learning Psychology and Neuroscience Lab, ALP(e)N Lab, which addresses the fundamental question of the “adaptive brain” by studying the cognitive, computational, and neurobiological basis of (social) learning and decision-making in health and disease (i.e. Computational Psychiatry).


  • PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience (summa cum laude), University of Hamburg & University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Germany; Awarded Chinese Government Prize for Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Abroad
  • MSc in Cognitive Neuroscience, University of the Basque Country & Basque Center on Cognition, Brain & Language, Spain
  • BSc in Psychology, Beijing Normal University, China


Dr Lei Zhang obtained his BSc in Psychology from Beijing Normal University, China, and his MSc in Cognitive Neuroscience at Basque Center on Cognition, Brain and Language, Spain. He received his PhD (summa cum laude), along with a one-year transition postdoc, with Dr Jan Gläscher at the Institute of Systems Neuroscience, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Germany. Between 2016 and 2017, he was a Roche intern for Scientific Exchange (RiSE) at one of the research-based pharmaceutical companies, F. Hoffmann-La Roche AG, based in Basel, Switzerland. Between 2019 and 2022, he worked as a postdoctoral fellow with Prof Claus Lamm at the Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Unit (SCAN-Unit), University of Vienna, Austria. Dr Zhang joined the Centre for Human Brain Health, Institute of Mental Health, and School of Psychology at University of Birmingham as an Associate Professor in winter 2022.


Dr Lei Zhang performs research-informed teaching. He teaches an MSc-level module on Proposing Research in Psychology.

Postgraduate supervision

PhD students: Students interested in working with Dr Zhang should email him to discuss potential funding opportunities. Current funding schemes include MRC-AIM, BBSRC-MIBTP, and CSC.

Postdoc researchers: Excellent and motivated postdoc researchers are welcome to contact Dr Zhang to discuss potential projects and funding opportunities (both national and international).


Learning and decision-making, flexible & adaptive (learning) behavior, decision neuroscience/neuroeconomics, social learning, reinforcement learning, cognitive modeling, Bayesian methods, neuroimaging, fMRI, TMS, pain, aversive learning, computational psychiatry

Other activities


  • Rising Star Award, Association for Psychological Science (APS), 2022
  • Commendation Award for Open Science, European Society for Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience (ESCAN), 2022
  • Open & Reproducible Science Award, Society for Social Neuroscience (S4SN), 2021
  • Trainee Professional Development Award, Society for Neuroscience (SfN), 2020
  • Teaching Award for Early Career Researchers, University of Vienna, 2020
  • Fellow, Kavli Summer Institute in Cognitive Neuroscience (“Brain Camp”), Santa Barbara, CA, USA, 2019


  • eLife Community Ambassador (2022-2024)
  • OHBM Student and Postdoc Special Interest Group (2021-2023)
  • S4SN Open Science Committee, Society for Social Neuroscience (2021–2022)
  • ALBA Network Member for diversity and equality in neurosciences (2021-present)
  • COS Ambassador, Center for Open Science (2020–present)
  • Steering committee member, Chinese Open Science Network (2018–present)


Highlight publications

Zhang, L & Gläscher, J 2020, 'A brain network supporting social influences in human decision-making', Science Advances. https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.abb4159

Crawley, D, Zhang, L, Jones, EJH, Ahmad, J, Oakley, B, San José Cáceres, A, Charman, T, Buitelaar, JK, Murphy, DGM, Chatham, C, den Ouden, H & Loth, E 2020, 'Modeling flexible behavior in childhood to adulthood shows age-dependent learning mechanisms and less optimal learning in autism in each age group', PLoS Biology, vol. 18, no. 10. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.3000908

Zhang, L, Lengersdorff, L, Mikus, N, Gläscher, J & Lamm, C 2020, 'Using reinforcement learning models in social neuroscience: frameworks, pitfalls and suggestions of best practices', Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, vol. 15, no. 6, pp. 695-707. https://doi.org/10.1093/scan/nsaa089

Zhao, Y, Zhang, L, Rütgen, M, Sladky, R & Lamm, C 2021, 'Neural dynamics between anterior insular cortex and right supramarginal gyrus dissociate genuine affect sharing from perceptual saliency of pretended pain', eLife, vol. 10, e69994. https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.69994

Ahn, WY, Haines, N & Zhang, L 2017, 'Revealing neurocomputational mechanisms of reinforcement learning and decision-making with the hBayesDM package', Computational Psychiatry, vol. 1, pp. 24-57. https://doi.org/10.1162/CPSY_a_00002

Recent publications


Peng, M, Duan, Q, Yang, X, Tang, R, Zhang, L, Zhang, H & Li, X 2024, 'The influence of social feedback on reward learning in the Iowa gambling task', Frontiers in Psychology, vol. 15, 1292808. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2024.1292808

Pan, Y, Vinding, MC, Zhang, L, Lundqvist, D & Olsson, A 2023, 'A Brain‐To‐Brain Mechanism for Social Transmission of Threat Learning', Advanced Science. https://doi.org/10.1002/advs.202304037

Kreis, I, Zhang, L, Mittner, M, Syla, L, Lamm, C & Pfuhl, G 2023, 'Aberrant uncertainty processing is linked to psychotic-like experiences, autistic traits, and is reflected in pupil dilation during probabilistic learning', Cognitive Affective & Behavioral Neuroscience, vol. 23, no. 3, pp. 905-919. https://doi.org/10.3758/s13415-023-01088-2

Geiger, SJ, White, MP, Davison, SMC, Zhang, L, McMeel, O, Kellett, P & Fleming, LE 2023, 'Coastal proximity and visits are associated with better health but may not buffer health inequalities', Communications Earth and Environment, vol. 4, no. 1, 166. https://doi.org/10.1038/s43247-023-00818-1

Kutlikova, HH, Zhang, L, Eisenegger, C, van Honk, J & Lamm, C 2023, 'Testosterone eliminates strategic prosocial behavior through impacting choice consistency in healthy males', Neuropsychopharmacology, vol. 48, no. 10, pp. 1541-1550. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41386-023-01570-y

Jin, H, Wang, Q, Yang, Y-F, Zhang, H, Gao, M, Jin, S, Chen, S, Xu, T, Zheng, Y-R, Chen, J, Xiao, Q, Yang, J, Wang, X, Geng, H, Ge, J, Wang, W, Chen, X, Zhang, L, Xi-Nian Zuo, XZ & Chuan-Peng, H 2023, 'The Chinese Open Science Network (COSN): Building an Open Science Community From Scratch', Advances in Methods and Practices in Psychological Science, vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 1-17. https://doi.org/10.1177/25152459221144986


Sohail, A & Zhang, L 2024, 'Informing the treatment of social anxiety disorder with computational and neuroimaging data', Psychoradiology. https://doi.org/10.1093/psyrad/kkae010

Kutlikova, HH, Zhang, L, Eisenegger, C, Van honk, J & Lamm, C 2023, 'Correction: Testosterone eliminates strategic prosocial behavior through impacting choice consistency in healthy males', Neuropsychopharmacology. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41386-023-01630-3


Luo, X, Zhang, L & Pan, Y 2024 'Do we advise as one likes? The alignment bias in social advice giving' PsyArXiv. https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/zvrk8

Steininger, MO, White, MP, Lengersdorff , L, Zhang, L, Smalley, AJ, Kuehn, S & Lamm, C 2024 'Nature exposure induces hypoalgesia by acting on nociception-related neural processing' bioRxiv. https://doi.org/10.1101/2024.04.29.591600

Su, Z, Garvert, MM, Zhang, L, Manohar, S, Vogel, TA, Thomas, L, Balsters, JH, Husain, M, Apps, MAJ & Lockwood, PL 2024 'Older adults are more susceptible to impulsive social influence' PsyArXiv. https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/zdr7q

Falck, J, Zhang, L, Raffington, L, Mohn, JJ, Triesch, J, Heim, C & Shing, YL 2023 'Longitudinal Changes in Value-based Learning in Middle Childhood: Distinct Contributions of Hippocampus and Striatum' bioRxiv. https://doi.org/10.1101/2023.04.13.536699

Falck, J, Zhang, L, Raffington, L, Mohn, JJ, Triesch, J, Heim, C & Shing, YL 2023 'Longitudinal Changes in Value-based Learning in Middle Childhood: Distinct Contributions of Hippocampus and Striatum' eLife, eLife Sciences Publications. https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.89483.1

Hu, C-P, Geng, H, Zhang, L, Fengler, A, Frank, M & Zhang, R-Y 2022 'A Hitchhiker’s Guide to Bayesian Hierarchical Drift-Diffusion Modeling with dockerHDDM' PsyArXiv. https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/6uzga

Zhang, L, Kandil, FI, Zhao, K, Fu, X, Lamm, C, Hilgetag, CC & Gläscher, J 2022 'A causal role of the human left temporoparietal junction in computing social influence during goal-directed learning' bioRxiv. https://doi.org/10.1101/2022.06.13.495824

View all publications in research portal