Behavioural and Cognitive Neuroscience Research

Publication Analysis 1999-2010
by Ralf Neumann, Labtimes 02/2012

Europe... ... and the World Most Cited Authors... ... and Papers

Most Cited Authors - Pictures

In European behavioural and cognitive neuroscience research, England’s dominance culminated in a rather striking fact: the ten most-cited researchers all come from London and Cambridge.

The first difficulty in tackling this publication analysis of behavioural and cognitive neuroscience was compiling as comprehensive a list as possible of journals that really do represent the field. Questions over questions popped up. Do we have to include journals from experimental psychology – and if yes, which ones in particular? What about pharmacology journals specialising in psychopharmacological topics? Which, if any, journals from basic neuroscience, neurology and psychiatry were to be included? And aren’t there also journals from the zoophysiology area that publish the majority of their articles on the neuroscience of animal cognition and behaviour?

Since the “Journals Citation Reports” from Thomson Reuters’ ISI Web of Knowledge databases, which were used for this analysis, do not offer a subject category exclusively covering behavioural and cognitive neuroscience, we had to handpick the appropriate journals from several sources. This way, we finally ended up with 66 journals that, in our view, qualified as mainly publishing papers of relevance for the field.

This journal list combined “obvious” titles like Behavioral Neuroscience or Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience with “less obvious” ones like Cortex or Chemical Senses – and was subsequently taken as the basis to analyse and compare the publication performance of the individual countries (see tables on p. 39).

Which journals to include?

Certainly, a considerable number of the “top papers” in the field are rather published in multidisciplinary science journals like Nature, Science or The New England Journal of Medicine. Regrettably, however, we had to omit them, at least from the country part of the analysis. The reason for this is a solely technical one, being that the ISI Web of Knowledge databases do not provide any reliable tools to automatically extract relevant behavioural and cognitive neuroscience articles from those multidisciplinary journals. And before assigning too many “false positives” to the individual countries, we decided to restrict this analysis to the papers published in the aforementioned specialist journals. Despite this limitation, however, we believe that such a “trimmed” survey still provides sufficiently valid indicators for the countries’ overall productivity in behavioural and cognitive neuroscience.

Rankings of the most-cited researchers and papers (see tables, p. 40), on the contrary, could be analysed from publications in all journals.

Even the smaller research nations had to step aside

Given this directive, let’s have a look at how the publication performance in behavioural and cognitive neuroscience during the period 1999-2010 is distributed among the individual European countries. The fact that England emerges as the “winner” in terms of number of articles and overall citations isn’t really unexpected. The same is true for Germany in second place. Fairly surprising in this respect is the considerable difference between the two. Already outperforming Germany by about 1,250 more articles in the expert journals, England jumps even further ahead when it comes to citations: 46 percent more citations in sum.

No advanced mathematics is needed to conclude that England’s researchers must thereby have also achieved a high citations-per-article ratio. And indeed, their calculated average of 18.4 citations-per-article does actually constitute the highest value of all countries. Only Scotland could keep up with a citations-per-article ratio of 18.3. All the other smaller research nations, which almost always overtake “big” England in this calculation, had to step aside this time: Switzerland, Wales (both 17.1), Sweden (16.6)...

Quite a surprise is the “bronze place” in terms of total citations: neither France nor Italy – the usual follow-ups in most other biomedical disciplines analysed so far – but The Netherlands achieved the third-highest number of citations. Again, this Dutch “success” was based on a higher citations-per-article ratio (16.4) when compared to their French and Italian colleagues (15.0 and 13.8).

Another rather unexpected result in the opposite direction was the comparatively weak performance of the Nordic countries. In terms of total citations, all of them came in lower than usual: Sweden in 8th place and the troika of Finland, Norway and Denmark on places 14 to 16.

When compared to “the rest of the world”, the whole of Europe clearly falls behind their US colleagues: about 26% more articles in the expert journals finally led to 29% more total citations. Canada and Australia, on the other hand, which in several biomedical fields manage to climb ahead or between the two European leader countries, this time had to stay behind Germany but went ahead of The Netherlands. Perhaps the only real surprise in this respect: the comparatively weak performance of Japan’s cognitive and behavioural neuroscientists.

Let’s finally turn to the most-cited authors in European behavioural and cognitive neuroscience (see table on p. 40). It wasn’t too far-fetched to expect a complete dominance of the field by research into human behaviour and, particularly, its disorders. Therefore, not a single researcher working, for example, on cognitive feats of animals is included in the top 30-cited authors although definitely much good research has been going on there. (For this reason, we think it will be fair to dedicate our next publication exclusively to the field of animal behaviour).

Names as a mirror for topics

In a nutshell, the list of the top 30-cited heads in European (human) behavioural and cognitive (disorder) research strikingly reflects England’s dominance of the field. Starting with Trevor Robbins from Cambridge in “pole position”, only colleagues from London and Cambridge follow down up to place 10. Thus, Stanislas Dehaene from Gif-sur-Yvette in 11th place can be regarded as the most-cited author from continental Europe.

Altogether, twenty researchers who between 1999 and 2010 worked in England made it into the “top 30”, followed by six from Germany; with the remaining four distributed between France, The Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland.

Of course, such a list of highly-cited researchers always also provides a mirror for which topics were particularly “hot” at the time. Therefore, scanning through this “top 30 list” as the most obvious issues emerged: the genetics of behaviour, including gene-environment interactions; the neural correlates of behaviour, including social behaviour; learning, attention and memory; perception and decision making; the function of the brain reward system; and, of course, pronounced (clinical) syndromes of behavioural disorders like autism, dementia, addiction, sleep dysfunction, perception and attention deficits.

It definitely takes more than mere crystal ball gazing to predict that these will still be the top issues in this field for the next couple of decades.


Articles appearing between 1999 and 2010 in ‘behavioural & cognitive neuroscience journals’ as listed by SCImago and Thomson Reuters’ Web of Science. The citation numbers are accurate as of February 2012. A country’s figures are derived from articles, where at least one author working in the respective European nation is included in the authors’ list. Israel is included because it is a member of many European research organisations and programmes (EMBO, FP7 of the EU...).

Citations of articles published between 1999 and 2010 were recorded up until Feb. 2012 using the Web of Science database from Thomson Reuters. The “most-cited papers” had correspondence addresses in Europe or Israel.


Country Citations Articles Cit./Art.

... and the World

Citations Articles Cit./Art.

Most Cited Authors...

Citations Articles
1.Trevor W. Robbins, Cogn. Neurosci. Expt. Psychol. Univ. Cambridge26.298365
2.Ray J. Dolan, Wellcome Trust Ctr. Neuroimaging Univ. Coll. London24.770298
3.Chris D. Frith, Wellcome Trust Ctr. Neuroimaging Univ. Coll. London18.319139
4.Ed T. Bullmore, Psychiat. Univ. Cambridge16.911234
5.Avshalom Caspi, Inst. Psychiat. King’s Coll. London15.655151
6.Terrie E. Moffitt, Inst. Psychiat. King’s Coll. London15.445159
7.Steven C.R. Williams, Psychiat. King’s Coll. Univ. London13.774251
8.Michael J. Brammer, Psychiat. King’s Coll. Univ. London13.142227
9.John R. Hodges, Behav. Neurol. Univ. Cambridge (s. 2007 Australia)12.846242
10.Barry J. Everitt, Behav. Neurosci. Expt. Psychol. Univ. Cambridge12.194128
11.Stanislas Dehaene, Inserm, Cogn. Neuroimaging Unit Gif-sur-Yvette11.499148
12.Detlev Y. Von Cramon, Max Planck Inst. Cogn. Neurosci. Leipzig11.070324
13.Barbara J. Sahakian, Behav. & Clin. Neurosci. Univ. Cambridge10.987205
14.Dorret I. Boomsma, Biol. Psychol. Free Univ. Amsterdam10.524447
15.Michael Rutter, Psychiat. King’s Coll. Univ. London9.614128
16.Klaus P. Lesch, Mol. Psychiat. Univ. Wuerzburg9.583252
17.Simon Baron-Cohen, Expt. Psychol. Univ. Cambridge9.551161
18.Edmund T. Rolls, Expt. Psychol. Univ. Oxford9.395172
19.Jon Driver, Cogn. Neurosci. Univ. Coll. London († 2011)9.241166
20.Angela D. Friederici, Max Planck Inst. Cogn. Neurosci. Leipzig8.816233
21.Gereon R. Fink, Neurol. Univ. Hosp. Cologne8.485207
22.Joram Feldon, Behav. Neurobiol. ETH Zurich7.738244
23.Alan Taylor, Psychiat. King’s Coll. Univ. London 7.40163
24.Clemens Kirschbaum, Biopsychol. Tech. Univ. Dresden7.295116
25.Robert Plomin, Psychiat. King’s Coll. Univ. London7.253233
26.Matthew F.S. Rushworth, Expt. Psychol. Univ. Oxford7.25294
27.Catherine Ledent, IRIBHM Free Univ. Brussels6.925144
28.Wolfram Schultz, Behav. & Clin. Neurosci. Univ. Cambridge6.92355
29.Richard E. Passingham, Cogn. Neurosci.Univ. Oxford6.90083
30.Andreas Zimmer, Mol. Psychiat. Univ. Bonn6.348114

... and Papers

1.Caspi, A; Sugden, K; Moffitt, TE; Taylor, A; [...]; Martin, J; Braithwaite, A; Poulton, R
Influence of life stress on depression: Moderation by a polymorphism in the 5-HTT gene.
SCIENCE 301 (5631): 386-9 JUL 2003
2.Caspi, A; McClay, J; Moffitt, TE; Mill, J; Martin, J; Craig, IW ;Taylor, A; Poulton, R
Role of genotype in the cycle of violence in maltreated children.
SCIENCE 297 (5582): 851-54 AUG 2002
3.Faul, F; Erdfelder, E; Lang, AG; Buchner, A
G*Power 3: A flexible statistical power analysis program for the social, behavioral, and biomedical sciences.
4.Stefansson, H; Sigurdsson, E; Steinthorsdottir, V; [...]; Gulcher, JR; Petursson, H; Stefansson, K
Neuregulin 1 and susceptibility to schizophrenia.
5.O’Doherty, J; Kringelbach, ML; Rolls, ET; Hornak, J; Andrews, C
Abstract reward and punishment representations in the human orbitofrontal cortex.
NATURE NEUROSCIENCE 4 (1): 95-102 JAN 2001

Last Changed: 13.07.2012