Shmuel Lissek, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Psychology


Research Interests:

What happens in the human brain and body during fear-related learning, memory, and decision making? What aberrancies in these psychobiological processes are associated with the emotional, cognitive, and behavioral symptoms of clinical anxiety? These questions of central interest are addressed using neuroimaging, psychophysiologic, pharmacologic, and behavioral assays of classical and operant fear-conditioning. The cross-species nature of this conditioning approach brings to bear a wealth of animal data with which to elucidate the neurobiology of fear and behavioral avoidance in the human instance. Specific areas of interest include:

1) the generalization of conditioned fear to stimuli resembling the learned danger-cue as a pathogenic marker of PTSD, panic disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder
2) the neurobiology, psychophysiology, and pharmacologic-modifiability of conditioned fear generalization
3) the conditioning-dependent plasticity in neural representations of learned danger-cues that may subserve the generalization process; and
4) the psychobiologic substrates of classically conditioned fear as predictors of operant avoidance.

Selected Publications:

(For a comprehensive list of recent publications, refer to PubMed, a service provided by the National Library of Medicine.)

Lissek, S., van Meurs, B. (in press). Learning models of PTSD: Theoretical accounts and psychobiological evidence. International Journal of Psychophysiology.

Duits, P., Cath, D.C., Lissek, S., Hox, J.J., Hamm, A. O., van de Hout, M.A., Engelhard, I.M. & Baas, J.M.P. (2015). An updated meta-analysis of classical fear-conditioning in the anxiety disorders. Depression and Anxiety, 32, 239-253.

Lissek S, van Meurs B. Int Learning models of PTSD: Theoretical accounts and psychobiological evidence. J Psychophysiol. 2014 Nov 20.

Lissek S, Bradford DE, Alvarez RP, Burton P, Espensen-Sturges T, Reynolds RC, Grillon C. Neural substrates of classically conditioned fear-generalization in humans: a parametric fMRI study. Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2014 Aug;9(8):1134-42.

van Meurs B, Wiggert N, Wicker I, Lissek S. Maladaptive behavioral consequences of conditioned fear-generalization: a pronounced, yet sparsely studied, feature of anxiety pathology. Behav Res Ther. 2014 Jun;57:29-37.

Lissek S, Kaczkurkin AN, Rabin S, Geraci M, Pine DS, Grillon C. Generalized anxiety disorder is associated with overgeneralization of classically conditioned fear. Biol Psychiatry. 2014 Jun 1;75(11):909-15.

Kaczkurkin AN, Lissek S. Generalization of Conditioned Fear and Obsessive-Compulsive Traits. J Psychol Psychother. 2013;7:3.

Lissek, S. Toward an account of clinical anxiety predicated on basic, neurally mapped mechanisms of Pavlovian fear-learning. Depression and Anxiety. Depress Anxiety. 2012 Apr;29(4):257-63.

Lissek S. & Grillon C. (2012). Conditioning models of PTSD. The Oxford handbook of traumatic disorders. Cornwell, B.R., Alvarez, R.P., Lissek, S., Kaplan, R., Ernst, M., Grillon, C. (2011). Anxiety overrides the blocking effects of high perceptual load on amygdala reactivity to threat-related distractors. Neuropsychologia, 49, 1363-1368.

Lissek, S., Rabin, S.J., Heller, R.E., Luckenbaugh, D., Geraci, M., Pine, D.S., & Grillon, C. (2010). Overgeneralization of conditioned fear as a pathogenic marker of panic disorder. American Journal of Psychiatry, 167, 47-55.

Lissek, S., Rabin, S. J., McDowell, D.J., Dvir, S., Bradford, D. E., Geraci, M., Pine, D.S., & Grillon, C. (2009). Impaired discriminative fear-conditioning resulting from elevated fear-responding to learned safety cues among individuals with panic disorder. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 47, 111-118.

Shmuel LIssek