Emotional Brain Institute (EBI)

The Emotional Brain Institute (EBI) is a collaborative research initiative between New York University (NYU) and the Nathan S. Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research (NKI) aimed at understanding the neuroscience of emotions and their impact on behavior.

Founded by Dr. Joseph LeDoux and Directed by Dr. Donald Wilson, the Institute is comprised of a multi-disciplinary group of researchers whose work focuses on emotion from the level of behavior to neural systems, cell activity, molecules, and genes. 

The Goals of EBI

To understand emotions and their impact on mind and behavior. To use emotion to bridge between scientific and other academic disciplines. To increase public understanding of emotions and the brain.

Our researchers are located at NKI in Orangeburg, NY, and at the Washington Square Campus of NYU and the NYU Grossman School of Medicine, both in Manhattan. Through the support of the NY State Office of Mental Health, new laboratories for EBI research at NKI were completed in 2014.  EBI is directed by Donald Wilson, PhD, Senior Research Scientist at NKI and Professor of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry and Neuroscience & Physiology at NYU.

Research Mission

More than 40 million Americans suffer from anxiety disorders, at a cost of more than $50 billion per year. A major emphasis of the EBI laboratories is the study 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 understanding applies to the human brain as well. EBI’s 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. 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. EBI hosts two award lectures each year: the Pioneers in the Emotional Brain Lecture, given at NKI, and the Distinguished Emotion Scientist Lecture, given at NYU.

Public Outreach

EBI sponsors 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 on the Scientific American website.  

In 2013, we inaugurated 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.