Nathan  Insel, Ph.D.

Contact Information

Personal Summary

Dr. Nathan Insel runs a research program studying how Neural Interactions support Social Expectations and Learning (NInSEL laboratory).  The NInSEL lab employs a range of behavioral and neural techniques to examine the mammalian forebrain perceives, attends to, and learns about other individuals. Experiments are primarily performed in degus, a small Chilean rodent with a rich repertoire of social behaviors. Those interested in participating in the lab should contact:

Nathan Insel teaches introductory classes in biological psychology (PSYX 250) and neuroscience (BIOH 280), as well as graduate-level courses on the same topic (physiological psychology, PSYX 571) and on research design (PSYX 523). A central theme to these courses is the concept of "mechanism", and the importance of understanding biological process for understanding psychological phenomena.




BA: Oberlin College (Biology/Neuroscience)
MA: University of Arizona (Psychology)
PhD: University of Arizona (Psychology)
Postdoctoral  studies: University of Toronto, CAMH, University of Toronto Scarborough, Hospital for Sick Children

Courses Taught


  • Fundamentals of Biological Psychology (PSYX 250)
  • From Mind to Molecules: Fundamentals of Neuroscience (BIOH 280)


  • Advanced Physiological Psychology (PSYX 571)
  • Research Design (PSYX 523)


Insel N., Guerguiev J., Richards B. Irrelevance by inhibition: Learning, computation, and implications for schizophrenia. PLoS Computational Biology 2018 [pubmed]

Pilkiw M, Insel N, Cui Y, Finney C, Morrissey MD, Takehara-Nishiuchi K. Phasic and tonic neuron ensemble codes for stimulus-environment conjunctions in the lateral entorhinal cortex. ELife, 2017. [pubmed]

Lidhar NK, Insel N, Dong JY, Takehara-Nishiuchi K. Observational fear learning in degus is correlated with temporal vocalization patterns. Behavioral Brain Research, 2017 [pubmed]

Morrissey M, Insel N, Takehara-Nishiuchi K Generalizable knowledge outweighs incidental details in prefrontal ensemble code over time. ELife, 2017 [pubmed]

Volle j, Yu X, Sun H, Tanninen SE, Insel N, Takehara-Nishiuchi K. Enhancing prefrontal neuron activity enables associative learning of temporally disparate events. Cell Reports 2016 [pubmed]

Park S, Kramer EE, Mercaldo V, Rashid AJ, Insel N, Frankland PW, Josselyn SA. Neural allocation to a hippocampal engram. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2016. [pubmed].

Insel N, Pilkiw M, Nobrega JN, Hutchison WD, Takehara-Nishiuchi K, Hamani C. Chronic deep brain stimulation of the rat ventral medial prefrontal cortex disrupts prefrontal coherence.  Experimental Neurology 2015 [pubmed]

Insel N, Frankland PW. Mechanism, function, and computation in neural systems. Behavioural Processes 2014 [pubmed]

Hsiang HL, Epp J, van den Oever M, Yan C, Rashid A, Insel N, Ye L, Niibori Y, Deisseroth K, Frankland P, Josselyn S. Manipulating a “cocaine engram” in mice. Journal of Neuroscience 2014 [pubmed]

Insel N, Barnes CA. Differential activation of fast-spiking and regular-firing neuron populations during movement and reward in the dorsal medial frontal cortex. Cerebral Cortex 2014 [pubmed]

Insel N, Takehara-Nishiuchi K. The cortical structure of consolidated memory: a hypothesis on the role of the cingulate-entorhinal cortical connection Neurobiology of Learning and memory 2013 [pubmed]

Insel N, Patron LA, Hoang LT, Nematollahi S, Schimanski LA, Lipa P, Barnes CA. Reduced gamma frequency in the medial frontal cortex of aged rats during behavior and rest: implications for age-related behavioral slowing. Journal of Neuroscience 2012 32(46):16331-44 [pubmed]

Takehara-Nishiuchi K, Insel N, Hoang LT, Wagner Z, Olson K, Chawla MK, Burke SN, Barnes CA. Activation patterns in superficial layers of neocortex change between experiences independent of behavior, environment, or the hippocampus. Cerebral Cortex 2012 [pubmed]

Insel N, Ruiz-Luna ML, Permenter M, Vogt J, Ericsson CA, Barnes CA. Aging in rhesus macaques is associated with changes in novelty preference and altered saccade dynamics. Behavioral Neuroscience 2008 122(6):1328-42 [pubmed]

Vazdarjanova A, Ramirez-Amaya V, Insel N, Plumier TK, Rosi S, Chowdhury S, Mkhael D, Worley PF, Guzowski JF, Barnes CA. Spatial exploration induces ARC, a plasticity-related immediate-early gene, only in calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II-positive principle excitatory and inhibitory neurons of the rat forebrain. Journal of Comparative Neurology. 2006. 498(3):317-29 [pubmed]

Poe GR, Teed RG, Insel N, White R, McNaughton BL, Barnes CA, Partial hippocampal inactivation: effects on spatial memory performance in aged and young rats. Behavioral Neuroscience 2000 114(5):940-9 [pubmed]