Neir Eshel, Grand Prize Winner 2016 – Cell and Molecular Biology

Neir Eshel


Neir Eshel, M.D., Ph.D., is a psychiatry resident at Stanford University, pursuing a career at the interface of research and clinical practice. He is interested in how we learn about rewards and punishments, how we make decisions based on this knowledge, and how these systems break down in neuropsychiatric disease. He has conducted research at the National Institutes of Health, Princeton University, the World Health Organization, University College London, and Harvard University. Outside the lab and clinic, Neir plays clarinet in chamber groups and orchestras and is a passionate advocate for LGBT health equality.


Arithmetic and local circuitry underlying dopamine prediction errors

We are all prediction-making machines. Each time we make a choice, we predict the outcome of that choice. When the outcome is unexpected, we update our predictions, hoping to do better next time. Dopamine—the chemical famous for its role in Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, and addiction—is critical to this process. Neir Eshel’s doctoral research explored how dopamine neurons signal prediction error, or the difference between actual and predicted reward. By discovering the inputs that dopamine neurons combine, his work illuminates the brain circuit underlying trial and error—a circuit often hijacked in neuropsychiatric disease.