EBI is virtual center focused on understanding how emotions work in the brain and educating the public about the science of emotion. EBI researchers are located at the Nathan Kline Institute (NKI) in Orangeburg, NY, and at the Washington Square Campus of NYU, and at the NYU Langone School of Medicine, both in Manhattan. Through the support of the NY State Office of Mental Health, new laboratories for EBI research are being constructed at NKI. The Director of EBI is Dr. Joseph LeDoux, a University Professor, and a Professor of Neural Science, Psychology, and Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at NYU.
A major emphasis of the EBI laboratories at NKI and NYU is on studies of fear and anxiety. Over the past several decades great strides have been made in understanding the neurobiology of fear in animal models. Because the core circuits of fear are highly conserved in mammals, this information applies to the human brain as well. This focus on fear and anxiety reflects the importance of these emotions to daily life. While fear and anxiety are normal responses to threatening events, when fear and anxiety are expressed beyond the extent called for by the situation, a fear/anxiety disorder exists. More than 40 million Americans suffer from fear/anxiety disorders, at a cost of more than $50 billion per year. Because these disorders do not necessarily remove people from their societal roles, fearful anxious children often remain in schools and adults remain in the workforce, though in compromised states. Anxiety also makes depression, schizophrenia, autism, mental retardation, eating disorders, and drug addiction worse by facilitating worry and causing memory and attention deficits. In addition, it can exacerbate the effects of other medical problems such as cancer or heart disease by potentiating the effects of stress and compromising immune reactions. Research at EBI on fear and anxiety, and stress in general, aims to improve our understanding of these disorders and identify new treatment options.
Universities consist of isolated silos: sciences, humanities, arts, law, business, medicine, etc. Emotion is a topic that is relevant to all areas of academic life. Given the strength of emotion research in the sciences at NYU, EBI seeks to use emotion as a unifying theme. EBI hosts meetings that reach across these disciplines to foster a richer understanding of what emotions are how they might be investigated in unique ways. Through a collaboration with NYU colleagues in the humanities, in 2011 we sponsored an international conference, “Unpacking Emotion: The Humanities and the Sciences.” In 2013 we inaugurate our “Annual Evening of Emotion in the Arts and Sciences” featuring a discussion between a neuroscientist and actors/directors Philip Seymour Hoffman, Tim Blake Nelson, and moderated by Mark Wing-Davy of NYU Tisch. Similar initiatives are envisioned for other areas, including The Law and Business Schools at NYU.
EBI will also promote public understanding of science by sponsoring public events, including lectures, readings, workshops and performances that help us understand what emotions are and how this knowledge can be used in daily life. EBI members individually participate in a variety of public lectures about their research. In addition, EBI is contributing to the sponsorship of a series of interviews about Mind and Brain with leaders in the field. The interviews are hosted by the Scientific American web site and involve the supplementation of the scientific interview with visually interesting video production and original pop/rock music. In addition, the “Annual Evening of Emotion in the Arts and Sciences” lecture is open to the public and geared at a lay level of understanding. EBI also sponsors musical events that feature members of EBI and other faculty and students at NYU.