Rainer Goebel

Cognitive Neuroscience, Maastricht University

Rainer Goebel has been head of the section “Neurobiological Foundations of Visual Perception and Cognition” in the Department of Cognitive Neuroscience at Maastricht University since 2000. Since 2020, he is Vice-Dean (Research) of the Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience. He is the founding director of the Maastricht Brain Imaging Centre (M-BIC). He was also a fellow at the Donders Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging in Nijmegen and a fellow at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience in Amsterdam. Before his time in Maastricht, he founded one of the first cognitive neuroimaging labs in Germany at the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research in Frankfurt am Main.

Rainer Goebel and his team are investigating the relationship between visual cognitive processes and the underlying processes in the brain. He uses high-resolution functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to better understand the fundamentals of mental processes. To this end, he develops neural network models and software for the analysis and visualization of brain images. With the help of particularly powerful MRI devices, of which there are only a few in the world, he tries to understand the brain on a mesoscopic level which lies between the macroscopic level of the brain areas and the microscopic level of the neurons. He wants to find out how mental processes arise from the interaction of simple units on the mesoscopic level (so-called cortical columns and cortical layers) in the brain. In addition, Rainer Goebel is developing novel fMRI-based brain-computer interfaces. The insights gained have led to neurofeedback studies and recently to a new therapeutic approach for patients with depression, Parkinson’s disease and phobias.

As a fellow at HIAS, Rainer Goebel will work on the topic “Visual mind reading with imaging techniques”. Using high-resolution fMRI scans, his team has recently succeeded in reading out presented letters from the “mind’s eye” and visualising them as images. The possibilities and limits of visual mind-reading are to be explored in greater detail and discussed in terms of its scope on the basis of new analyses of existing as well as new data sets. In particular, he would like to explore with his collaboration partner whether the developed method could make it possible to read out presented images from the visual cortex of late-blind individuals.

His collaboration partner is Brigitte Röder, professor und head of Biological Psychology and Neuropsychology at Universität Hamburg, and among other things member of the senate of the German Research Foundation (DFG).

Rainer Goebel’s HIAS Fellowship is provided by the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg and the federal and state funds acquired by Universität Hamburg in the framework of its Excellence Strategy.


Rainer Goebel 


Universität Hamburg


Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Brigitte Röder, Professor and Head of Biological Psychology and Neuropsychology at Universität Hamburg and member of the senate of the German Research Foundation

Förderung durch das Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF) sowie der Freien und Hansestadt Hamburg im Rahmen der Exzellenzstrategie von Bund und Ländern der Universität Hamburg