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Daniela Schiller

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    The Neural mechanisms of emotional control and flexibility

    Dr. Schiller's line of research focuses on the neural mechanisms underlying emotional control. Because the environment we live in is constantly changing, our learned emotional responses need to be continuously updated to appropriately reflect current circumstances. Understanding the neural mechanisms that make such emotional flexibility may shed light on the impairments leading to anxiety disorders and may also promote new forms of treatment.

    In her doctoral research she studied one such aspect of emotional learning, namely, the ability to acquire emotional responses to previously ignored stimuli, which is impaired in patients suffering from chronic schizophrenia. Under the mentorship of Ina Weiner, she developed an animal model of this symptom (persistent latent inhibition) and examined the underlying neural circuitry, as well as the efficacy of antipsychotic drugs in ameliorating it.

    For post-doctoral training, Dr. Schiller chose to extend her knowledge to human emotional systems under the mentorship of Elizabeth Phelps and Joseph LeDoux. Together, they came up with a translational research program aimed at extending fundamental findings in rats to humans. This research project includes parallel findings in rats and humans on the recovery of extinguished fear, elucidation of the neural circuitry of flexible fear reversal, and how fear motivates instrumental responding. In addition, to extend these findings to more complex situations unique to humans, she's investigating how emotional systems are recruited to rapidly evaluate others during initial social encounters.

    Finally, in extreme situations, when emotional memories become traumatic, it might be beneficial to erase fear memories altogether preventing them from resurfacing. New evidence in rats and other non-human species suggests this might be possible using pharmacological manipulations. However, these finding have yet to be demonstrated convincingly in humans. Dr. Schiller is currently testing this possibility, by examining whether emotional memories induced in the laboratory can be erased using beta-adrenergic receptor blockade as well as drug-free behavioral manipulations. These studies are essential in providing a critical link between animal models and the clinical population.

    Visit Dr. Daniela Schiller's Laboratory of Affective Neuroscience for more information.


Schiller D, Delgado MR. Overlapping neural systems mediating extinction reversal and regulation of fear. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 2010; 14: 268-276.

Schiller D, Monfils M, Raio CM, Johnson D, LeDoux JE, Phelps EA. Blocking the return of fear in humans using reconsolidation update mechanisms. Nature 2010; 463: 49-53.

Schiller D, Freeman JB, Mitchell JP, Uleman JS, Phelps EA. A neural mechanism of first impressions. Nature Neuroscience 2009; 12: 508-514.

Schiller D, Johansen J. Prelimbic prefrontal neurons drive fear expression: A clue for extinction-reconsolidation interactions. The Journal of Neuroscience 2009; 29: 13432-13434.

Schiller D, Levy I, Niy Y, LeDoux JE, Phelps EA. From fear to safety and back – reversal of fear in the human brain. The Journal of Neuroscience 2008; 28: 11517-11525.

Delgado MR, Li J, Schiller D, Phelps EA. Review: The role of striatum in aversive learning and aversive prediction errors. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 2008; 363: 3787-3800.

Schiller D, Cain CK, Curley NG, Schwartz J, Stern SA, LeDoux JE, Phelps EA. Evidence for recovery of fear following immediate extinction in rats and humans. Learning & Memory 2008; 15: 394-402.

Schiller D, Zuckerman L, Weiner I. Abnormally persistent latent inhibition induced by lesions to the nucleus accumbens core, basolateral amygdala and orbitofrontal cortex is reversed by clozapine but not by haloperidol. Journal of Psychiatric Research 2006; 40: 167-177.

Schiller D, Weiner I. Basolateral amygdala lesions in the rat produce an abnormally persistent latent inhibition with weak preexposure but not with context shift. Behavioural Brain Research 2005; 163: 115-121.

Industry Relationships

Physicians and scientists on the faculty of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai often interact with pharmaceutical, device and biotechnology companies to improve patient care, develop new therapies and achieve scientific breakthroughs. In order to promote an ethical and transparent environment for conducting research, providing clinical care and teaching, Mount Sinai requires that salaried faculty inform the School of their relationships with such companies.

Dr. Schiller has not yet completed reporting of Industry relationships.

Mount Sinai's faculty policies relating to faculty collaboration with industry are posted on our website at Patients may wish to ask their physician about the activities they perform for companies.

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