Shackman, Alexander J.
Anxiety disorders are a leading source of human suffering. These disorders first emerge early in life, are extremely common, and are often resist treatment. Individuals with an anxious temperament -- those who express anxiety too intensely or in inappropriate contexts -- are much more likely to develop anxiety and other psychiatric disorders. To understand the substrates of this risk, we use a broad spectrum of tools, including brain imaging (e.g., fMRI) and event-related potential (ERP) techniques, peripheral physiological measures, and behavioral assays, such as experience sampling. Our laboratory is particularly focused on characterizing the mechanisms by which anxiety alters the processing of threats and punishments in a way that enhances the likelihood of avoidance and behavioral inhibition. Clinically, our work promises to enhance our understanding of how emotional traits and states modulate risk, facilitate the discovery of novel endophenotypes and biomarkers, and set the stage for developing improved interventions. From a basic psychological science perspective, our research begins to address fundamental questions about the nature of personality and the interplay of emotion and cognition.