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Prof. Dr. Ilka Diester


Phone: +49 (0)761 203-8440


Academic education


Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Eberhart-Karls-University, Tübingen, Germany


Dipl. Biol. (equivalent to Master) from Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany



Scientific & professional career

Since 2014

W3 Professor at the Albert Ludwigs University of Freibug


Research Group Leader at the Ernst Strüngmann Institute in Cooperation with Max Planck Society


Postdoctoral Research Fellow with Dr. Karl Deisseroth, Laboratory of Optogenetics, and Dr. Krishna Shenoy, Laboratory of Motor Control, Stanford University, California, USA.



Academic Functions

Speaker of the Profile Field Neuroscience and Neurotechnology Freiburg


Member of directory Board of the research building Intelligent Machine Brain Interfacing Technology (IMBIT)


Member of the steering committee of the Excellence ClusterBrainLinks-BrainTools


Member of the steering committee of the DFG Priority Program 1926


Honors & Awards

Member of the FENS Kavli Network of Excellence


ERC Starting Grant


TILL Photonics Research Award


Bernstein Award (BMBF)


Boehringer Ingelheim FENS (Federation of European Neuroscience Societies) Research Award


Postdoctoral fellowship of the Human Frontier   Science Program (HFSP)


Academy prize of the Göttingen Academy of Science


Graduate “Summa cum laude”, Eberhardt-Karls University, Tübingen


 Postdoctoral fellowship of the DAAD (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst)


Paper of the year award (Hertie Institute for clinical brain research)


Travel stipend of the NWG (Neurowissenschaftliche Gesellschaft)


Marine Biological Laboratory Award, Woods Hole



Journal papers (peer-reviewed)

Eriksson D, Heiland M, Schneider ADiester I. Distinct dynamics of neuronal activity during concurrent motor planning and execution. Nat Commun. 2021 Sep 10;12(1):5390. doi: 10.1038/s41467-021-25558-8. PMID: 34508073.


Gabriel Kalweit, Maria Kalweit, Mansour Alyahyay, Zoe Jaeckel, Florian Steenbergen, Stefanie Hardung, Ilka Diester and Joschka Boedecker (2021). NeuRL: Closed-form Inverse Reinforcement Learning for Neural Decoding. Accepted at ICML 2021 Workshop on Computational Biology

Karvat, G., Ayahyay, M., Diester, I. (2021): Spontaneous activity competes externally evoked responses in sensory cortex. PNAS Jun 2021, 118 (25) e2023286118; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2023286118

Sharma K., Jaeckel Z., Schneider A., Paul O., Diester I. and Ruther P. (2021). Multifunctional optrode for opsin delivery, optical stimulation, and electrophysiological recordings in freely moving rats. bioRxiv; doi:

Lewis CM., Ni J., Wunderle T., Jendritza P., Lazar A., Diester I., Fries P. (2021). Cortical resonance selects coherent input. Cell Reports. in press. doi:

Melbaum S., Eriksson D., Brox T. and Diester I. (2021). Conserved structures of neural activity in sensorimotor cortex of freely moving rats allow cross-subject decoding. bioRxiv 2021.03.04.433869; doi:

Zongpeng Sun, Artur Schneider, Mansour Alyahyay, Golan Karvat, Ilka Diester (2021): Effects of optogenetic stimulation of primary somatosensory cortex and its projections to striatum on vibrotactile perception in freely moving rats. eNeuro 16 February 2021, ENEURO.0453-20.2021; DOI: 10.1523/ENEURO.0453-20.2021

David Eriksson, Artur Schneider, Anupriya Thirumalai, Mansour Alyahyay, Brice de la Crompe, Kirti Sharma, Patrick Ruther, Ilka Diester (2021): Multichannel optogenetics combined with laminar recordings for ultra-controlled neuronal interrogation. bioRxiv. DOI:

Eriksson, D., Schneck, M., Schneider, A., Coulon, P. & Diester, I. (2020): A starting kit for training and establishing in vivo electrophysiology, intracranial pharmacology, and optogenetics. J Neurosci Methods. 2020 Apr 15;336:108636. doi: 10.1016/j.jneumeth.2020.108636.

Zimmermann, C., Schneider, A., Alyahyay, M., Brox, T. & Diester, I. (2020): freiPose: A Deep Learning Framework for Precise Animal Motion Capture in 3D Spaces. BioRxiv. DOI:

Karvat, G., Schneider, A., Alyahyay, M., Steenbergen, F., Tangermann, M., & Diester, I. (2020): Real-time detection of neural oscillation bursts allows behaviourally relevant neurofeedback. In: "Nature Communications Biology". DOI: 10.1038/s42003-020-0801-z

Eriksson, D., Heiland, M., Schneider, A. & Diester, I. (2019): Slow and fast cortical dynamics distinguish motor planning and execution. BioRxiv. DOI:

Jessica Hartmann, Frederic Thalheimer, Felix Höpfner, Thomas Kerzel, Konstantin Khodosevich, Diego García-González, Hannah Monyer, Ilka Diester, Hildegard Büning, Jan E. Carette, Pascal Fries, Christian J. Buchholz (2019): GluA4-targeted AAV vectors deliver genes selectively to interneurons while relying on the AAV receptor for entry. Mol Ther Methods Clin Dev. 14:252-260. DOI:  

Thorsten Falk, Dominic Mai, Robert Bensch, Özgün Çiçek1, Ahmed Abdulkadir, Yassine Marrakchi, Anton Böhm, Jan Deubner, Zoe Jäckel, Katharina Seiwald, Alexander Dovzhenko, Olaf Tietz, Cristina Dal Bosco, Sean Walsh, Deniz Saltukoglu, Tuan Leng Tay, Marco Prinz, Klaus Palme, Matias Simons, Ilka Diester, Thomas Brox and Olaf Ronneberger. (2018) U-Net: deep learning for cell counting, detection and morphometrie. Nature Methods. Brief Communication,

O'Shea DJ, Kalanithi P, Ferenczi EA, Hsueh B , Chandrasekaran C, Goo W, Diester I, Ramakrishnan C, Kaufman MT, Ryu SI, Yeom KW, Deisseroth K, Shenoy KV (2018). Development of an optogenetic toolkit for neural circuit dissection in squirrel monkeys. Scientific Reports. 8(1):6775

Hardung S, Alyahyay M, Eriksson D, Diester I (2017), A toolbox for optophysiological experiments in freely moving rats Front. Sys. Neurosci. doi: 10.3389/fnsys.217.00027

Hardung S., Epple R., Jaeckel Z., Eriksson D., Uran C., Senn V., Gibor L., Yizhar O.,  Diester I (2017) A Functional Gradient in the Rodent Prefrontal Cortex Supports Behavioral Inhibition, Current Biology 27, 1–7

Ni J, Wunderle T, Lewis CM, Desimone R, Diester I, Fries P (2016Gamma-Rhythmic Gain Modulation. Neuron 92, 1–12.

Fenno LE, Mattis J, Ramakrishnan C, Hyun M, Lee SY, Miao H, Tucci-arone J, Selimbeyoglu A, Berndt A, Grosenick L, Zalocusky KA, Bern-stein H, Swanson H, Diester I, Boyce FM, Bass C, Neve R, Huang ZJ, Deisseroth K (2014) Targeting cells with single vectors using multiple-feature Boolean logic. Nature Methods.  2014 Jul;11(7):763-72. doi: 10.1038/nmeth.2996.

Ozden I, Wang J, Lu Y, May T, Lee J, Goo W, O’Shea DJ, Kalanithi P, Diester I, Diagne M, Deisseroth K, Shenoy KV, Nurmikko AV (2013) A Coaxial Optrode As Multifunction Write-Read Probe for Optogenetic Studies in Non-Human Primates. Journal Neuroscience Methods. 2013 Sep 30;219(1):142-54. doi: 10.1016/j.jneumeth.2013.06.011.

Wang J, Wagner F, Borton DA, Zhang J, Ozden I, Burwell RD, Nurmikko AV, van Wagenen R, Diester I, Deisseroth K (2012) Integrated Device for Combined Optical Neuromodulation and Electrical Recording for Chronic In Vivo Applications. Journal of Neural Engineering. 2012 Feb;9(1):016001. doi: 10.1088/1741-2560/9/1/016001.

Diester I, Kaufman MT, Mogri M, Pashaie R, Goo W, Yizhar O, Ramakrishnan C, Deisseroth K, Shenoy KV (2011) An optogenetic toolbox designed for primates. Nature Neuroscience. 2011 Mar;14(3):387-97. doi: 10.1038/nn.2749.

Gilja V, Chestek CA, Diester I, Henderson JM, Deisseroth K, Shenoy KV (2011) Challenges and opportunities for next-generation intra-cortically based neural prostheses. IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering. 2011 Jul;58(7):1891-9. doi: 10.1109/TBME.2011.2107553.

Witten IB, Lin SC, Brodsky M, Prakash R, Diester I, Anikeeva P, Gradinaru V, Ramakrishnan C, Deisseroth K (2010) Cholinergic interneurons control local circuit activity and cocaine conditioning. Science. 2010 Dec 17;330(6011):1677-81. doi: 10.1126/science.1193771.

Gradinaru V, Zhang F, Ramakrishnan C, Mattis J, Prakash R, Diester I, Goshen I, Thompson KR, Deisseroth K (2010) Molecular, cellular, and genomic force multipliers for optogenetic control. Cell. 2010 Apr 2;141(1):154-65. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2010.02.037.

Diester I, Nieder A (2009) Numerical values leave a semantic imprint on associated signs in monkeys. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience. 2010 Jan;22(1):174-83. doi: 10.1162/jocn.2009.21193.

Diester I, Nieder A (2008) Complementary contributions of prefrontal neuron classes in abstract numerical categorization. Journal of Neuroscience. 2008 Jul 30;28(31):7737-47. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1347-08.2008.

Diester I, Nieder A (2007) Semantic associations between signs and numerical categories in the prefrontal cortex. PLoS Biol. 2007 Oct 30;5(11):e294.

Nieder A, Diester I, Tudusciuc O (2006) Temporal and spatial enumeration processes in the primate parietal cortex. Science. 2006 Sep 8;313(5792):1431-5.



B De La Crompe, P CoulonI Diester (2020): Functional interrogation of neural circuits with virally transmitted optogenetic tools. Journal of Neuroscience Methods.  DOI:

Jan Deubner, Philippe Coulon, and Ilka Diester (2019): Optogenetic approaches to study the mammalian brain. Curr Opin Struct Biol. 57:157-163.

Stroh A, Diester I (2012) Optogenetics: a new method for the causal analysis of neuronal networks in vivo. Neuroforum, lead article.

Hubbard EM, Diester I, Cantlon JF, Ansari D, Opstal F, Troiani V (2008) The evolution of numerical cognition: from number neurons to linguistic quantifiers. Journal of Neuroscience.  2008 Nov 12;28(46):11819-24. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3808-08.2008.

Conference papers (peer-reviewed)

Diester I, Kaufman MT, Goo W, O'Shea DJ, Kalanithi PS, Deisseroth K, Shenoy KV (2011) Optogenetics and brain-machine interfaces. Proc. of the 33rd Annual International Conference IEEE EMBS. Boston, MA.

Wang J, Ozden I, Diagne M, Wagner F, Borton D, Brush B, Agha N, Burwell R, Sheinberg D, Diester I, Deisseroth K, Nurmikko A (2011) Approaches to Optical Neuromodulation from Rodents to Non-Human Primates by Integrated Optoelectronic Devices. Proc. of the 33rd Annual International Conference IEEE EMBS. Boston, MA. 2011;2011:7525-8. doi: 10.1109/IEMBS.2011.6091855.

Book chapters

Hardung S., Jäckel Z., Diester, I. (2020): Prefrontal contributions to action control in rodents. Book chapter in International Review of Neurobiology. Academic Press. ISSN 0074-7742. 

Karvat, G., Diester, I. (2018): Optophysiology and Behavior in Rodents and Nonhuman Primates. Book chapter in Optogenetics: A Roadmap by Albrecht Stroh. Springer Protocols, Springer. Volume 133, ISBN 978-1-4939-7415-3.

Diester I, Hefti F, Mansuy I, Pascual-Leone A, Robbins TW, Rubin LL, Sawa A, Wernig M, Dölen G, Hyman SE, Mucke L, Nikolich K, Sommer B (2015) Bridging the Gap between Patients and Models. Strüngmann Forum Reports. MIT Press. Book chapter in Translational Neuroscience - Towards New Therapies  edited by Karoly Nikolich and Steven E. Hyman.

Dölen G, Malenka RC, Perlmutter JS, Brose N, Frackowiak R, Cuthbert BN, Diester I, Mansuy I, Kroker KS, Boeckers TM, Pascual-Leone A, Feng G (2015)

Dölen G, Malenka RC, Perlmutter JS, Brose N, Frackowiak R, Cuthbert BN, Diester I, Mansuy I, Kroker KS, Boeckers TM, Pascual-Leone A, Feng G (2015)
Pathophysiological Toolkit - Genes to Circuits. Strüngmann Forum Reports. MIT Press. Book chapter in Translational Neuroscience - Towards New Therapies edited by Karoly Nikolich and Steven E. Hyman.