Skip to main content

Division of Intramural Research

Section on Affective Neuroscience and Pain

Atlas Lab Section on Affective Neuroscience and Pain New Image Feb 2022

Lauren Y. Atlas, Ph.D., leads the Section on Affective Neuroscience and Pain in the NCCIH Intramural Research Program. The lab’s work focuses on characterizing the psychological and neural mechanisms by which expectations and other cognitive and affective factors influence pain, emotional experience, and clinical outcomes. Our approach is multimodal: We integrate experimental psychology, neuroimaging, psychophysiology, computational approaches, and other interventions to understand how psychological and contextual factors influence subjective experience. Current projects focus on dissociating components of expectancy (e.g., instructions vs. conditioning; stimulus vs. treatment expectancies), relating pain with other types of hedonic affective responses, and understanding social influences on pain (e.g., patient-provider interactions; health disparities). Long-term goals include revealing how specific features of the clinical context and interpersonal aspects influence patient outcomes, as well as determining whether expectancy-based processing is altered in specific patient populations.

Lab Chief

atlas lauren

Dr. Atlas received her B.A. in psychology from the University of Chicago in 2003, and her Ph.D. in psychology in 2011 from Columbia University, where she studied under the mentorship of Dr. Tor D. Wager. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship with Dr. Elizabeth Phelps at New York University’s Department of Psychology in 2014. Dr. Atlas joined NCCIH in 2014 as a tenure-track clinical investigator and chief of the Section on Affective Neuroscience and Pain. She holds joint appointments with the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Her laboratory uses a multimodal approach to investigate how expectations and learning influence pain and emotion, and how these factors influence clinical outcomes.

Lab Members

Lola Akintola, Visiting Postdoc Fellow

Titilola Akintola, Ph.D., Visiting Postdoctoral Fellow

Lola Akintola is a visiting postdoctoral fellow who will be investigating the mechanisms of expectation effects on pain using neuroimaging and behavioral approaches. Lola received her B.Sc. in biology from Morgan State University and her Ph.D. in toxicology from the University of Maryland, Baltimore, where she studied under the mentorship of Dr. Luana Colloca. Lola’s doctoral work investigated pain modulation in chronic pain and healthy populations using both preclinical and clinical models of pain. Specifically, her project employed a translational approach to investigate how Placebo Analgesia is altered in chronic neuropathic pain. She can be reached at

View Dr. Akintola's publications.

Sabrina Barhoum, Postbac IRTA, Atlas Lab

Sabrina Barhoum, Postbaccalaureate IRTA Fellow

Sabrina Barhoum is a postbac IRTA research fellow who is currently studying the neural and psychological mechanisms of pain perception, particularly expectation and pain relief. Sabrina attended Muhlenberg College and received her B.S. in neuroscience and minor in philosophy. She spent her undergraduate years working in Dr. Gretchen Gotthard’s lab, where she evaluated the disruption of memory and memory reconsolidation using virtual reality. This research focused on proposing future treatment for memory-based disorders, like post-traumatic stress disorder, and was presented as a poster at the Society for Neuroscience Convention in 2019. She completed a grant proposal investigating the association between media multitasking and negative affect in children under the mentorship of Dr. Matthieu de Wit, and presented a formal talk about the extended mind theory and technology under the guidance of Dr. Jeremy Teissere. Her other research interests and proposed areas of study include childhood psychopathology, cognition, and neural plasticity. She can be reached at

Jama Brookes, Postbac IRTA, Atlas Lab

Jama Brookes, Postbaccalaureate IRTA Fellow

Jama Brookes is a postbac IRTA research fellow who is currently assisting in understanding biopsychosocial processes in pain perception and expressions. She will create and analyze psychophysiological stimuli to study health disparities in pain. Jama received a B.S. in psychology with a minor in medical humanities from Appalachian State University. While completing her undergraduate degree, Jama worked under three research professors in the departments of biochemistry, psychology, and economics. She researched P450 modulation, moral aspects of blame, and the role of sleep in monetary decision making, respectively. While at NIH, she hopes to further investigate the social and cultural factors that influence the physician-patient relationship in pain treatment. Outside of lab, Jama enjoys dancing, hiking, whitewater rafting, and watercolor painting. She can be contacted at

Maya Delity, Postbac IRTA, Atlas Lab

Maya Joshi Delity, Postbaccalaureate IRTA Fellow

Maya Joshi Delity is a postbac IRTA research fellow who will be investigating psychological processes on chronic pain, as well as mechanisms of expectation effects on pain. To this end, she will gather and analyze neuroimaging, psychophysiological, and participant self-report data. Maya received her B.A. in psychology from Boston University, where she studied under the mentorship of Dr. Nicholas Wagner in the Biobehavioral and Social Emotional Lab. Her honors thesis examined the impact of overreactive parenting on childhood anxiety and the moderating role of children’s parasympathetic nervous system. During her undergraduate studies, Maya also studied trauma-related disorders and mood disorders under the guidance of Dr. Nathaniel Harnett, Dr. Lauren Lebois, and Dr. Kerry Ressler at McLean Hospital/Harvard Medical School. Outside of the lab, Maya enjoys taking long walks, cooking, and reading.

Julie Parsons, postbac irta fellow, atlas lab

Julie Parsons, Postbaccalaureate IRTA Fellow

Julie Parsons is a postbac IRTA fellow who is currently assisting in research pertaining to the neurological and physiological expressions of pain, as well as interpretations of pain. She hopes to continue within this line of questioning to see how negative affect or experiences differ from those of pain within the neurological and physiological expression of individuals. Julie received a B.A. in psychology and a B.S. in biochemistry from Lee University, where she worked with Dr. Bryan Poole to study the effects of various social influences on emotion perception in individuals. During her undergraduate studies, she also worked with Dr. Sarah Schlosser to study the intersection of chemistry education and psychological impact of perception. Her research goals include continuing to look at the intersection of negative affect and experiences on the physiological health of individuals with the intent of developing methods that improve physiological health by better understanding the effects of affect. Outside of the lab, Julie enjoys hiking, yoga, reading, cooking, and exploring the D.C. area. She can be contacted at

Qingbao Yu, Ph.D., Senior MRI Data Analyst

Qingbao Yu, Ph.D., is a senior MRI data analyst. He will perform analyses on pain related task fMRI data. Dr. Yu received his B.A. in physics as well as his Ph.D. in biomedical engineering (neuroinformatics) from Dalian University of Technology, Dalian, China. While obtaining his Ph.D., Qingbao worked under Dr. Yiyuan Tang, where he performed fMRI and EEG studies to investigate functional brain connectivity during Chinese language tasks and gender differences in mental rotation tasks. Dr. Yu’s postdoctoral and research scientist research was conducted in Dr. Vince Calhoun’s laboratory at the Mind Research Network, Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he combined ICA and graph theory based analysis to examine brain connectivity in patients with schizophrenia. In May 2018, Dr. Yu joined ANP lab at NCCIH to work with Dr. Lauren Atlas.
View Dr. Yu's publications

Lab Alumni


Carolyn Amir, Postbaccalaureate IRTA Fellow

Carolyn Amir served as a postbac IRTA research fellow, studying the effects of psychological processes on pain perception in healthy adults. 

Nicole Antkiewicz

Nicole Antkiewicz, Postbaccalaureate IRTA Fellow

Nicole Antkiewicz served as a postbac IRTA who investigated the effects of bias on pain perception and expression in healthy adults.


Lauren Banker, Postbaccalaureate IRTA Fellow

Lauren is now a Ph.D. student in the applied physiology and kinesiology at the University of Florida.

Molly Cosgrove, Postbaccalaureate IRTA Fellow

Molly Cosgrove was a postbac IRTA fellow in the Section on Affective Neuroscience and Pain. 


Troy Dildine, Predoctoral IRTA Fellow

Troy Dildine was a predoctoral IRTA fellow through the Graduate Partnership Program and had been pursuing  a Ph.D. in medicine between the National Institutes of Health and Karolinska Institutet.

Elena Do, postbac IRTA research fellow, Section on Affective Neuroscience and Pain

Elena Do, Postbaccalaureate IRTA Fellow

Elena Do was a postbac IRTA research fellow who investigated social discrimination on pain. 

Shara Grant, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow

Lee, In Seon

Inseon Lee, Ph.D., Visiting Postdoctoral Fellow

Inseon Lee is now faculty at Kyung Hee University.
View Dr. Lee's publications


Dominik Mischkowski, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow

Dominik Mischkowski is now an assistant professor at Ohio University.


Margaret Rose-McCandlish, Postbaccalaureate IRTA Fellow

Margaret Rose-McCandlish was a postbac IRTA research fellow who studied the effects of psychological processes on pain perception and expression in healthy adults. 


Elizabeth Necka, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow

Elizabeth Necka is now an American Association for the Advancement of Science fellow at the National Institute of Mental Health.
View Dr. Necka's publications

olga oretsky

Olga Oretsky, Postbaccalaureate IRTA Fellow


Esther Palacios-Barrios, Postbaccalaureate IRTA Fellow

Esther Palacios-Barrios is now a Ph.D. student in clinical psychology at the University of Pittsburgh.

Chrissy Sandman

Chrissy Sandman is now a Ph.D. student in clinical psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles. (no image available)

Rachel Weger, postbac IRTA

Rachel Weger, Postbaccalaureate IRTA Fellow

Rachel Weger was a postbac IRTA research fellow. She gathered and analyzed psychophysiologial measures and participant self-report in healthy adults to study health disparities in pain.

Julio Yanes, Ph.D., Postdoc IRTA Fellow, Atlas Lab

Julio Yanes, Ph.D., Postdoctoral IRTA Fellow

Julio Yanes, Ph.D., was a postdoctoral IRTA fellow. 
View Dr. Yanes's publications

Summer Students 2015 Atlas Lab_Square

(from left): Bethany Sauls, summer student; Bethany Leidl, summer student; Caitlin Stavish, special volunteer; Lauren Banker, summer student


See the full list of publications for Lauren Y. Atlas, Ph.D. on PubMed.

News and Openings