Division of Intramural Research
Section on Affective Neuroscience and Pain
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 multi–modal: 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.
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. Her doctoral work combined functional magnetic resonance imaging, experimental psychology, and psychopharmacology to examine the mechanisms by which beliefs and expectations influence pain and its modulation. Her dissertation, “Brain mechanisms of expectancy effects on pain experience,” was awarded with distinction. Dr. Atlas’s postdoctoral research was conducted in Dr. Elizabeth A. Phelps’s laboratory at New York University, where she extended computational models of decision-making to isolate components of expectancy, and to understand how these components influence physiological and neural markers of aversive learning. In July 2014, Dr. Atlas joined NIH as an NCCIH investigator and chief of the Section on Affective Neuroscience and Pain. She also holds joint appointments with the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Her laboratory uses a multi-modal approach to investigate how expectations and learning influence pain and emotion, and how these factors influence clinical outcomes.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nicole Antkiewicz, Postbaccalaureate IRTA Fellow
Nicole Antkiewicz is a post-bac IRTA who will primarily investigate the effects of bias on pain perception and expression in healthy adults, with an additional interest in understanding the complex etiology and symptomology of neuropsychiatric disorders. In the pursuit of investigating pain more broadly, she will gather and analyze neuroimaging and participant self-report data. Nicole received her B.A. in both English and Psychology from the Schreyer Honors College at the Pennsylvania State University. After graduation and before coming to the NIH, she performed independently-led psychosocial research abroad, studying the effects of negative work-life balance on the expression of mental illness in Japan. This work was carried out in conjunction with Dr. Raymond Langley of Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University in Beppu, Japan.
Troy Dildine, Predoctoral IRTA Fellow
As a predoctoral IRTA fellow through the Graduate Partnership Program, Troy will be pursuing a Ph.D. in medicine between the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Karolinska Institutet. Troy will be using neuroimaging and psychophysiological measures to study health disparities in pain. Prior to this, Troy spent two years as a postbac IRTA fellow at NCCIH. Troy completed an honors thesis in neuroscience at Dartmouth College under the mentorship of Professor Catherine Norris, and he spent a year under the guidance of Professor Tiffany Ito at the University of Colorado Boulder. Outside of the laboratory, Troy enjoys running ultra-marathons, meditating, fikas, and slam poetry.
Elena Do, Postbaccalaureate IRTA Fellow
Elena Do is a postbac IRTA research fellow who will be investigating social discrimination on pain. She will also create stimuli, collect data, and perform analyses to identify whether facial expressions of pain differ across race and gender. Additionally, her future projects will involve pain perception and possible interventions to address healthcare disparities in pain. Elena received her B.A. in Neuroscience from Swarthmore College. As an undergraduate, she worked in the Social Neuroscience Lab led by Dr. Catherine Norris. Her thesis studied the effects of race on pain perception, evaluation, and treatment using electroencephalography (EEG). She can be contacted at email@example.com.
Margaret Rose-McCandlish, Postbaccalaureate IRTA Fellow
Margaret Rose-McCandlish is a postbac IRTA research fellow who will be studying the effects of psychological processes on pain perception and expression in healthy adults. To this end, she will gather and analyze neuroimaging, psychophysiological, and participant self-report data. Margaret received her B.A. in psychology from Middlebury College, and also studied psychology at the Université Paris Diderot. As an undergraduate she worked in the Clinical Psychophysiology Lab of Dr. Matthew Kimble researching Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.
Rachel Weger, Postbaccalaureate IRTA Fellow
Rachel Weger is a post-bac IRTA research fellow. She will gather and analyze psychophysiologial measures and participant self-report in healthy adults to study health disparities in pain. Rachel received her B.S. in Neuroscience from American University. As an undergraduate, she studied the role of the cerebellum in cognition in the Developmental Neuroscience Laboratory led by Dr. Catherine Stoodley. She also conducted research within the Community-Based Research Scholars program. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (301) 451-6573.
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
Carolyn Amir, Postbaccalaureate IRTA Fellow
Carolyn Amir served as a post-bac IRTA research fellow, studying the effects of psychological processes on pain perception 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 Fell
Molly Cosgrove was a postbac IRTA fellow in the Section on Affective Neuroscience and Pain.
Shara Grant, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow
Inseon Lee, Ph.D., Visiting Postdoctoral Fellow
Dr. Lee is now faculty at Kyung Hee University.
View Dr. Lee's publications
Dominik Mischkowski, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow
Dr. Mischkowski is now an Assistant Professor at Ohio University.
Elizabeth Necka, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow
Dr. Necka is now a AAAS fellow at NIMH.
View Dr. Necka's publications
Olga Oretsky, Postbaccalaureate IRTA Fellow
Esther Palacios-Barrios, Postbaccalaureate IRTA Fellow
Esther is now a Ph.D. student in Clinical Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh.
Chrissy is now a Ph.D. student in Clinical Psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles. (No Image Available)
(from left): Bethany Sauls, Bethany Leidl,
Caitlin Stavish, Lauren Banker
- Lauren Banker, Summer Student
- Bethany Leidi, Summer Student
- Bethany Sauls, Summer Student
- Caitlin Stavish, Special Volunteer
- Leknes S & Atlas LY (In press). Flawed methodology undermines conclusions about opioid-induced pleasure: Implications for psychopharmacology. British Journal of Anesthesia.
- Geuter S, Roy M, Reynolds Losin EA, Atlas LY, Schmidt L, Krishnan A, Koban L, Wager TD, Lindquist MA (2020). Multiple brain networks mediating stimulus-pain relationships in humans. Cerebral Cortex, bhaa048.
- Rahnev D, Desender K, Lee ALF, Adler WT, Akdo?an B, Arbuzova P, Atlas LY, et al. (2020). The confidence database. Nature Human Behaviour. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-019-0813-1 Database at https://osf.io/s46pr/
- Zheng W, Woo CW, Yao Z, Goldstein P, Atlas LY, Roy M, Schmidt L, Krishnan A, Jepma M, Hu B, Wager TD (2019). Reorganized architecture of pain evoked functional network. Cerebral Cortex.
- Lee I*, Necka EA*, Atlas LY (2020). Distinguishing pain from nociception, salience, and arousal: How autonomic nervous system activity can improve neuroimaging tests of specificity. Neuroimage, 204: 116254.
- Leknes S, Atlas LY, (In press). Flawed methodology undermines conclusions about opioid-induced pleasure: implications for psychopharmacology. British Journal of Anaesthesia.
- Lee IS, Necka EA, Atlas LY. Distinguishing pain from nociception, salience, and arousal: How autonomic nervous system activity can improve neuroimaging tests of specificity. Neuroimage. 2019 Oct 8:116254. Epub ahead of print.
- Atlas LY, Palacios-Barrios E, Dildine TC, et al. (In press). Anxious individuals update expectations and reported pain in response to instructions during aversive reversal learning, but maintain sustained arousal for initial threats. Journal of Abnormal Psychology.
- Necka EA, Lee IS, Kucyi A, Cheng JC, Yu Q, Atlas LY. Applications of dynamic functional connectivity to pain and its modulation. Pain Reports. 2019;4(4):e752.
- Dildine TC, Atlas LY. The need for diversity in research on facial expressions of pain. Pain. 2019;160(8):1901-1902.
- Mischkowski D, Atlas LY. Reply to Zaman et al. Pain. 2019;160(6):1485-1486.
- Mischkowski D, Palacios-Barrios E, Banker LA, Dildine TC, Atlas LY. Pain or nociception? Subjective experience mediates the effects of heat on autonomic responses – corrected and republished. Pain. 2019;160(6):1469-1481.
- Atlas LY. How instructions shape aversive learning: higher order knowledge, reversal learning, and the role of the amygdala Current Opinions in Behavioral Sciences. 2019;26:121-129.
- Atlas LY, Doll BB, Li J, Daw ND, Phelps EA. How instructed knowledge shapes adaptive learning. PsyArXiv. 2018;doi:10.31234/osf.io/f4sh9.
- Atlas LY, al’Absi M. The neuroscience of pain: biobehavioral, developmental, and psychosocial mechanisms relevant to intervention targets. Psychosomatic Medicine. 2018;80(9):788-790.
- Case LK, Laubacher CM, Richards EA, Grossman M, Atlas LY, Parker S, Bushnell MC. Is placebo analgesia for heat pain a sensory effect? An exploratory study on minimizing the influence of response bias. Neurobiology of Pain. 2018;doi: 10.1016/j.ynpai.2018.09.001.
- Zunhammer M, Bingel U, Wager TD, Atlas LY, et al. Placebo effects on the neurologic pain signature: a meta-analysis of individual participant functional magnetic resonance imaging data. JAMA Neurology. 2018;75(11):1321-1330.
- Michalska KJ, Feldman JS, Abend R, Gold AL, Dildine TC, Palacios-Barrios EE, Leibenluft E, Towbin KE, Pine DS, Atlas LY. Anticipatory effects on perceived pain: associations with development and anxiety. Psychosomatic Medicine. 2018;80(9):853-860.
- Evers AWM, Colloca L, Blease C, Klinger R, Annoni M, Atlas LY, et al. Implications of placebo and nocebo effects for clinical practice: expert consensus. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics. 2018;87(4):204-210.
- Moayedi M, Salomons TV, Atlas LY. Pain neuroimaging in humans: a primer for beginners and non-imagers. Journal of Pain. 2018;19(9):961.e1-961.e21.
- Atlas LY, Phelps EA. Prepared stimuli enhance aversive learning without weakening the impact of verbal instructions. Learning & Memory. 2018;25(2):100-104.
- Necka EA, Atlas LY. The role of social and interpersonal factors in placebo analgesia. In Colloca L, ed. Neurobiology of the Placebo Effect, Part I. International Review of Neurobiology. Vol. 138. Cambridge, MA: Academic Press; 2018:161-179.
- Atlas LY. How are emotions regulated by context and cognition? The role of context and cognition in the placebo effect. In: Fox AS, Lapate RC, Shackman AJ, et al, eds. The Nature of Emotion. Fundamental Questions. New York, NY: Oxford University Press; 2018:158-161.
- Woo C-W, Schmidt L, Krishnan A, Jepma M, Roy M, Lindquist M, Atlas LY, Wager TD. (2017). Quantifying cerebral contributions to pain beyond nociception. Nature Communications; 8; 14211.
- Atlas LY, Doll BB, Li J, Daw NE & Phelps EA. Instructed knowledge shapes feedback-driven aversive learning in striatum and orbitofrontal cortex, but not the amygdala. eLife. 2016;5:e15192.
- Wager TD & Atlas LY. The neuroscience of placebo effects: Connecting context, learning, and health. Nature Reviews Neuroscience. 2015;16:403-418.
- Robinson LF*, Atlas LY*, & Wager TD. Dynamic functional connectivity using State-based Dynamic Community Structure: Method and application to opioid analgesia. Neuroimage. 2015;108:274-291. * = Equal authorship contributions.
- Atlas LY & Wager TD. A meta-analysis of brain mechanisms of placebo analgesia: Consistent findings and unanswered questions. F. Benedetti, P. Enck, E. Frisaldi, and M. Schedlowski (Eds). In Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology—Placebo. 2014;225:37–69.
- Atlas LY, Lindquist MA, Bolger N, et al. Brain mediators of the effects of noxious heat on pain. Pain. 2014;155(8):1632–1648.
- Atlas LY, Wielgosz J, Whittington RA, et al. Specifying the non–specific factors underlying opioid analgesia: expectancy, attention, and affect. Psychopharmacology. 2014;231(5):813–823.
- Job Opportunity: Postdoctoral Position in Neuroimaging of Pain and Affect
Dr. Lauren Atlas’s laboratory is recruiting 1-2 postdoctoral researchers with expertise in fMRI and affective science to join the Section on Affective Neuroscience and Pain to lead new projects on the psychological modulation of pain and emotional experience using high field imaging (7-Tesla MRI).
- Join a Study: Neural and Psychological Mechanisms of Pain Perception (ClinicalTrials.gov)