Research Topics

The Social Rodent Lab studies social valuation in rodents. What do we mean by social valuation?

Social valuation is the process by which the brain attaches value to things happening with or to social partners. Examples include the emotional state induced by a social interaction or the warm glow of sharing

We combine neuroeconomic analysis of choice behavior with neurobiological or pharmacological manipulations and the recording of ultrasonic vocalizations. Furthermore, the Social Rodent Lab specializes in recording the electrophysiological signals at the single unit and network level from behaving rodents. Let's look at these methods in turn:

  • Neuroeconomic analysis: when you combine economic concepts such as value, demand and utility with neuroscience methods, it becomes possible to track the value of things (food, social interaction, drugs) in the brain. Economic analysis helps to understand the value of things quantitatively by looking at choices, mostly by asking things like: "Given A vs B, which do you prefer? What about 2A vs B" and so forth, until we can find out precisely how much A is worth in B to you.
  • Neurobiology & Pharmacology: when you work with animal models, you can study the specific contribution of certain parts of the brain or of certain brain chemicals and their receptors to the behavior you are interested in. Often, the cues to which brain areas could be important for a certain function come from human neuroimaging studies. These interventions then help to understand the processes involved in generating some behavior, and perhaps suggest targets for medication if the behavior is disturbed.
  • Ultrasonic Vocalizations: Rats and other animals communicate with each other during social interactions (just like humans). However, rats vocalize in the ultrasonic range with sounds that humans cannot hear. Using specialized microphones and analysis software, it is possible to record the vocalizations and deduce that affective state or mood the animal is in. 
  • Electrophysiology: The brain is made of billions of neurons, all connected to each other in complicated wiring schemes. Each unit, or neuron, essentially is a biochemical and electrical sensor combined with a biochemical output system. By hooking the neurons up in the right way, we can perceive the outside world, make sense of it, decide what to and go and interact with the world. All these steps involved minute electrical potentials and currents, that can be recorded by small and sensitive electrodes. We use such electrodes to record brain activity in animals that are doing a task, making decisions or interacting socially to learn about the neural code and pathways that drive these behaviors.



Hernandez-Lallement J, van Wingerden M, Kalenscher T (in press) Towards an animal model of callousness. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. Link to article


Hernandez-Lallement J, van Wingerden M, Kalenscher T (2016) A social reinforcement learning hypothesis of mutual reward preferences in rats. Curr Top Behav Neurosci. Link to chapter

Hernandez-Lallement J, van Wingerden M, Schäble S, Kalenscher T (2016) Basolateral amygdala lesions abolish mutual reward preferences in rats. Neurobiol Learn Mem 127:1–9. Link to article

Margittai Z, Nave G, Strombach T, van Wingerden M, Schwabe L, Kalenscher T (2016) Exogenous cortisol causes a shift from deliberative to intuitive thinking. Psychoneuroendocrinology 64:131–135. Link to article

Oberliessen L, Hernandez-Lallement J, Schäble S, van Wingerden M, Seinstra M, Kalenscher T (2016) Inequity aversion in rats, Rattus norvegicus. Anim Behav 115:157–166. Link to article


Margittai Z, Strombach T, van Wingerden M, Joëls M, Schwabe L, Kalenscher T (2015) A friend in need: Time-dependent effects of stress on social discounting in men. Horm Behav 73:75–82. Link to article

van Wingerden M, van den Bos W (2015) Can You Trust a Rat? Using Animal Models to Investigate the Neural Basis of Trust Like Behavior. Soc Cogn 33:387–413. Link to article

van Wingerden M, Marx C, Kalenscher T (2015) Budget Constraints Affect Male Rats’ Choices between Differently Priced Commodities. PLoS ONE 10(6): e0129581. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0129581. Link to Article
Hernandez-Lallement J, van Wingerden M, Marx C, Srejic M, Kalenscher T (2015) Rats prefer mutual rewards in a prosocial choice task. Front Neurosci 8:1–9 Link to Article


van Wingerden M, van der Meij R, Kalenscher T, Maris E, Pennartz CMA (2014) Phase-amplitude coupling in rat orbitofrontal cortex discriminates between correct and incorrect decisions during associative learning. Journal of Neuroscience: 34(2):493-505 Link to Article


van Wingerden M Good Vibrations: Rhythms and plasticity in neural correlates of value in rat orbitofrontal cortex (Doctoral Thesis University of Amsterdam). Link to Doctoral Thesis


van Wingerden M, Vinck M, Tijms V, Ferreira IRS, Jonker AJ, Pennartz CMA (2012) NMDA Receptors Control Cue-Outcome Selectivity and Plasticity of Orbitofrontal Firing Patterns during Associative Stimulus-Reward Learning. Neuron 76:813–825. Link to Article

van Wingerden M, Kalenscher T (2012) Animal decisions - a look across the fence. Frontiers in neuroscience 6:142. Link to Article


Pennartz CM, Van Wingerden M, Vinck M (2011) Population coding and neural rhythmicity in the orbitofrontal cortex. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1239:149–161. Link to Article

Kalenscher T, van Wingerden M (2011) Why we should use animals to study economic decision making – a perspective. Frontiers in neuroscience 5:82 Link to Article

Vinck M, Oostenveld R, van Wingerden M, Battaglia F, Pennartz CM (2011) An improved index of phase-synchronization for electrophysiological data in the presence of volume-conduction, noise and sample-size bias. Neuroimage 55:1548–1565 Link to Article


van Wingerden M, Vinck MA, Lankelma JV, Pennartz CMA (2010) Theta-band Phase-locking of Orbitofrontal Neurons during Reward Expectancy. Journal of Neuroscience 30:7078–7087 Link to Article

van Wingerden M, Vinck MA, Lankelma JV, Pennartz CMA (2010) Learning-associated gamma-band phase locking of action-outcome selective neurons in orbitofrontal cortex, Journal of Neuroscience 30:10025–10038 Link to Article

Vinck MA, van Wingerden M, Womelsdorf T, Fries P, Pennartz CMA (2010) The pairwise phase consistency: A bias-free measure of rhythmic neuronal synchronization. Neuroimage 51:112–122 Link to Article