At the Center for Affective Neuroscience at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, we approach research in a way that leads to changes in the fields of neuroscience and neurobiology more quickly than usual. While holding ourselves to the highest, most rigorous academic, professional, and medical standards, we speed up our research by sharing ideas and data among our entire team. This brings a variety of disciplinary approaches to bear on each study. With a hub full of hard-working pioneers in neurobiological study and testing, our groundbreaking scholars, innovative physicians, and promising young researchers are investigating more than 80 distinct affective disorders and conditions, and treatments and therapies for affective disorders.

Research Areas

Our emotional state influences how we experience the ups and downs of our daily lives. It affects how we reason, what we remember, and the way we make decisions. People who have psychiatric conditions, such as depression or anxiety, can find their ability to process these experiences is so compromised that they cannot lead a normal life. Our researchers are working to understand how healthy brains process and remember information during emotional events, to determine what happens when these processes fail, and to discover new treatments to return the brain to a healthy state. We are studying the ways our brains process information and react to it, and how everyday events can cause difficulties for people with an affective disorder. Through this work, our researchers have made significant progress in the study and treatment of depression, addiction, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), especially, and other affective neuropathic conditions.

Affective processing in decision making researchers include:

If you experience a stimulus during a threatening experience, it can become a trigger for defensive emotional reactions such as anxiety, avoidant behavior, and fear. These triggers can make it more difficult to deal with conditions like PTSD, phobias, and other anxiety-related disorders. Our researchers are working to identify the specific ways triggers affect our thinking in both normal and pathological conditions. Our findings will be used to develop more effective therapies for people with these conditions.

Threat learning and memory researchers include:

Our brains are designed to help us survive. Reward systems in the brain encourage us to behave in certain ways that ensure our survival. Many psychiatric conditions are marked by abnormalities in our reward system’s functions. These abnormalities manifest as an inability to enjoy pleasurable activities, as is the case with depression, or as inappropriate associations to rewarding stimuli, as is the case with addiction and antisocial personality disorder. Researchers are working to understand how the brain encodes rewarding stimuli and to determine what goes wrong under pathological states. Through this work, we are developing new therapies to treat psychiatric illness, especially antisocial personality disorder, depression, and addiction.

Reward and motivation researchers include:

Although we often seem to confront it effortlessly, navigating the social aspects of our world is a daunting and difficult task. The existence of hidden social skills becomes obvious when they go awry, as is evident with many psychiatric disorders. Social anxiety disorder, for example, is a persistent, out-of-proportion fear of social situations. If we sense that embarrassment, or scrutiny by others may occur, those feelings or worries can cause considerable distress, and impair the ability to function as usual, in the case of someone experiencing an affective disorder. Other examples of flawed social awareness include difficulties handling interpersonal relationships, social isolation, and social dysfunction, which may accompany depressive disorders and schizophrenia, or deceitful and aggressive behavior, and failure to conform to social norms, which are both characteristics associated with psychopathy. Within this area, our researchers are deciphering the neural mechanisms of social behavior and mapping impairments in social cognitive information processing onto social dysfunction across psychiatric disorders.

Social cognition researchers include:

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