UCL Psychology and Language Sciences

Prof Nikolaus Steinbeis

Prof Nikolaus Steinbeis

Professor of Developmental Neuroscience

Clinical, Edu & Hlth Psychology

Div of Psychology & Lang Sciences

Joined UCL
1st Sep 2017

Research summary

My research programme is organised around understanding the development of cognitive control and its role in supporting adaptive socio-affective cognitions and behaviours during childhood. Specifically, my research focusses on the extent to which cognitive control is malleable early in life and the potential such plasticity affords for resilient developmental trajectories and mental health. In my lab (ww.dcp-lab.org) we study longitudinal development at multiple levels of analysis from the brain (functional and structural MRI, grey and white matter development, EEG) and behavior (standard paradigms from psychology, game theory and decision-making), to environment and context. To get a handle on the complexity of experience of the environment we leverage training paradigms. Additionally, by training cognitive functions like cognitive control, which are important for well-being and mental health later in life, our work has considerable potential in its application to prevention and treatment.

Teaching summary

I am Programme Director for the Research Master in Developmental Neuroscience and Psychopathology (MRes DNP). This Master is run across UCL, the Anna Freud Centre and the Child Study Centre at Yale University. It is a small programme (between 10-12 students a year), where students spend their first year in London and their second year in a research placement in Yale. The programme focusses on teaching state-of-the-art neuroscientific methods, research skills and methods, and a multidisciplinary approach to developmental psychopathology. Typically, graduates from the programme go on to do a Clinical Psychology Doctorate or a PhD. I teach multiple modules on the programme.

I am also Co-Director of the newly founded Doctoral Training Programme in Developmental Neuroscience and Mental Health, also run across UCL, the Anna Freud Centre and Yale University. The first student on this programme will start in September 2021.  


Universitat Leipzig
Doctorate, Doctor of Philosophy | 2008
Keele University
Other higher degree, Master of Science | 2004
University College London
First Degree, Bachelor of Science | 2001


I did my thesis at the Max-Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences on the neuroscience of music and and was awarded my PhD in 2008 from the University of Leipzig. I then switched research focus to study social and affective development and moved to the University of Zuerich to work at the Institute for Empirical Economics. I worked together with Professors Tania Singer and Ernst Fehr on the neurobiological underpinnings of prosocial development. In 2010, I became Senior Researcher at the Max-Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences and was promoted to Group Leader in 2014 in the Department of Social Neuroscience. For my work during this time on the neural underpinnings of socio-affective skills and behaviors I was nominated as a Rising Star by the Association for Psychological Science in 2013.  In 2015, I was awarded fellowships to work at the Weill Cornell Medical School and the Douglas Mental Health University Institute with BJ Casey and Michael Meaney respectively. I then joined the Department of Developmental Psychology at the University of Leiden as an Assistant Professor in 2015. In 2016, I received a Jacobs Foundation Research Fellowship and a Starting Grant from the European Research Council to study the malleability of cognitive control in childhood. I joined UCL's Division of Psychology and Language Sciences in 2017 as an Independent ERC Research Fellow and Associate Professor. My work is funded by Fellowship and Project grants from the Jacobs Foundation, the ERC grant and more recently an Open Research Area (ORA) grant from the ESRC.