NYU and Nathan Kline Institute Collaboration Seeks To Alleviate Anxiety Disorders, Improve Overall Well-being

Joseph LeDoux
Joseph LeDoux

NYU Medical Center Contact: Kari Root

NYU and Nathan Kline Institute Collaboration Seeks To Alleviate Anxiety Disorders, Improve Overall Well-being

New York University (NYU) and the Nathan S. Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research (NKI) today jointly announced the establishment of the Emotional Brain Institute (EBI), a new research endeavor aimed at understanding the neuroscience of emotions and their impact on behavior. A multi-disciplinary group of researchers will investigate origins of emotion from the level of behavior to neural systems, cell activity, molecules, and genes.

Joseph LeDoux, Ph.D., of the Center for Neural Science at NYU will head the EBI. LeDoux is a world-renowned researcher in the study of the brain mechanisms of emotion. His books, The Emotional Brain and Synaptic Self, have been translated into numerous languages and are used to guide researchers and clinicians in their efforts to understand and treat emotions. He will work in conjunction with Harold S. Koplewicz, M.D., chairman of the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at NYU and director of NKI in Orangeburg, New York.

“The EBI is an innovative collaboration that is revolutionary in its approach to brain research. By drawing upon the research capabilities of New York State’s leading institutions in many diverse fields, the EBI will serve as a bridge for researchers seeking to understand emotion. We hope and expect the EBI to make breakthrough discoveries in unlocking the secrets of emotions, such as fear and anxiety. In modern life with its stresses, including war, this knowledge is crucial,” said New York State Commissioner of Mental Health Michael F. Hogan, Ph.D.

The main labs of EBI will be housed at NKI, where six new faculty members will be recruited. EBI researchers will have appointments in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at NYU Medical Center, and may also have affiliation with departments within NYU’s Faculty of Arts and Science (FAS) at Washington Square, such as the Center for Neural Science and the Department of Psychology, when appropriate. The new researchers will focus on the mechanisms of fear and anxiety, conditions that contribute to the most common psychiatric disorders across the lifespan of humans.

“Negative emotions such as fear and anxiety are the root of human suffering,” said LeDoux, University Professor, Henry and Lucy Moses Professor of Science, and professor of neural science and psychology at NYU, “These emotions impair memory, attention, decision-making and creativity, and inhibit social behavior. Early stress and anxiety make it harder to regulate emotions later in life. Through better understanding of emotional systems, we will learn ways of training the brain to inhibit negative emotions and thereby release these other systems from the tyranny of anxiety.”

Elizabeth Phelps, Ph.D., an internationally known emotion researcher and professor of psychology and neural science said, “This collaboration with New York State is a great opportunity to expand NYU’s focus on emotion research and link it to psychiatric problems.”

“We know that anxious children do not learn well. Brain imaging studies show that breathing and relaxation exercises can have calming effects on the emotional brain,” said Dr. Koplewicz. “Great benefits may result from implementing simple yet effective anti-anxiety tools, such as breathing exercises, in the classroom. Through research done at EBI, we will develop evidence-based treatments, with far-reaching implications for important societal questions.”

EBI investigators will address pressing issues about the genetic roots, molecular foundations, and memory mechanisms that underlie normal fear and the susceptibility for the development of anxiety disorders, especially in children. They will work with the goal of developing large scale prevention strategies that will be developed, tested, and implemented in collaboration with clinical investigators at the NYU Child Study Center and NKI in partnership with educators and policymakers throughout New York City and New York State.

“By weaving together the rich intellectual and academic resources of NYU, the EBI will also support explorations of emotions from the points of view of literature, the arts, law, and education, as well as advancing the corresponding biological, psychological, and medical sciences,” said F. Xavier Castellanos, M.D., director of the Phyllis Green and Randolph Cōwen Institute for Pediatric Neuroscience at the NYU Child Study Center. “No topic in neuroscience has the potential to impact each of these areas more than the study of the emotional brain.”

Anxiety and fear are normal responses to threatening events. However, when fear and anxiety are expressed beyond the extent called for by the situation, an anxiety disorder exists. More than 40 million Americans suffer from anxiety disorders, at a cost of more than $50 billion per year. Because anxiety disorders do not necessarily remove people from their societal roles, anxious children often remain in schools and anxious adults remain in the workforce, both 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.

About the NYU Child Study Center - Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
The NYU Child Study Center is dedicated to the understanding, prevention, and treatment of child and adolescent mental health problems. The Center offers expert psychiatric services for children and families with emphasis on early diagnosis and intervention. The Center’s mission is to bridge the gap between science and practice, integrating the finest research with patient care and state-of-the-art training utilizing the resources of the New York University School of Medicine. The NYU Child Study Center offers a variety of mental health services for children, adolescents, young adults, and their families. The goal of the Child Study Center is to bring together the most research-supported evaluations and treatments with an individualized and family centered approach. The Child Study Center was founded in 1997 and established as the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry with the NYU School of Medicine in 2006. For more information, please visit www.aboutourkids.org.

About NKI
Located on the grounds of Rockland Psychiatric Center, the Nathan S. Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research is a facility of the New York State Office of Mental Health that is nationally and internationally renowned for its pioneering contributions to psychiatric research. For information about NKI, please see http://www.rfmh.org/nki/.

About FAS
The Faculty of Arts & Science is the largest academic unit at New York University. Arts & Science has a rich and diverse academic organization. It is home to the College of Arts and Science, the Graduate School of Arts and Science, the General Studies Program, and three disciplinary divisions: the Division of Humanities, the Division of Science, and the Division of Social Sciences.

Press Contact