Sabine Kastner

PNI & Psychology
M.D., University of Dusseldorf, Germany, 1993. Ph.D., University of Gottingen, Germany, 1994
Office Phone
140 Neuroscience

Research Focus

The goal of our research program is to better understand how large-scale networks operate during cognition, with particular emphasis on interactions between cortex and thalamus. We use the visual attention network as a model network. Currently, we are particularly interested in studying the dimension of time. Cognitive function unfolds over time by setting up rhythmically alternating network states. We study these issues in two primate brain models, the human and the macaque monkey, using an integrated and complementary methods approach of invasive electrophysiology (intracranial electrophysiology in human epilepsy patients, in collaboration with Bob Knight, UC Berkeley, and simultaneous multi-site recordings in monkeys) with several brain imaging modalities (functional magnetic resonance imaging, diffusion tensor imaging). Our studies in the two primate brain models are performed in direct comparison using identical behavioral paradigms. In complementary lines of research in the lab, we also study the development of cognitive function in school-aged children.

Kastner and a group of collaborators were recently awarded a Silvio O. Conte Center for Basic Research focusing on functional principles in thalamo-cortical interactions related to decision making and visuo-spatial attention (“the Cognitive Thalamus”).


Sabine Kastner studies the neural basis of visual perception, attention, and awareness using a translational approach that combines neuroimaging in humans and monkeys, intracranial electrophysiology and studies in patients with brain lesions. Dr. Kastner earned an M.D. degree from the Heinrich-Heine University of Düsseldorf (Germany) and received a Ph.D. degree in neurophysiology from the Georg-August University, Göttingen (Germany) under the mentorship of the late Otto Creutzfeldt. After a postdoc at the Max-Planck-Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, Göttingen and a lectureship in psychiatry, Dr. Kastner joined Leslie Ungerleider’s and Robert Desimone’s lab at the NIMH in Bethesda (1996-2000) before taking on a faculty position at Princeton, where she currently holds the rank of full professor. Dr. Kastner has served as the Scientific Director of Princeton’s neuroimaging facility since 2005. Dr. Kastner has published more than 150 articles in journals and books and has edited the Handbook of Attention (Oxford University Press, 2014). She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, the Society for Experimental Psychology, and the American Psychological Society, and a member of the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina. Her groundbreaking contributions to the field of cognitive neuroscience were recognized with the George A. Miller Award in Cognitive Neuroscience in 2023 and the Young Investigator Award from the Cognitive Neuroscience Society in 2005. Dr. Kastner serves on several editorial boards and is Editor-in-Chief of The Journal of Neuroscience and Frontiers for Young minds/Understanding neuroscience. Dr. Kastner performs public outreach through her educational neuroscience for the 21st century program including teacher seminars, public school outreach, events at PNI, and for parent support groups for neurodevelopmental disability. Her outreach activities were recognized by the Society for Neuroscience’s 2019 Award for Education in Neuroscience.

Related Links

Princeton Neuroscience Institute
Research Area
Systems & Circuits
Human Cognitive
Computation & Theory