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Affect, Social Behavior and Social Cognition Program


This Program supports integrative approaches to understanding the fundamental principles governing affect, social behavior, and social cognition in humans and animals. Topic areas include the fundamental mechanisms underlying emotion, mood, agonistic and affiliative behaviors, social communication and social cognition as well as investigations into their regulation and development. The program also supports work on fundamental mechanisms of social information processing. Deficits in various aspects of affective and social behavior are hallmark characteristics of many mental disorders. At the same time recent advances at the behavioral and systems neuroscience levels have made possible increasingly sophisticated approaches to studying these behaviors. Research that utilizes and combines multiple levels of analysis including behavioral, systems neuroscience, cellular, molecular and/or genetic approaches, holds great promise for delineating the basic mechanisms governing these behaviors. As this knowledge base grows, such basic science research should lead to insights into the etiology and/or pathophysiology of various mental disorders.  Highlighting some of NIMH’s interest in these areas is a recent NIMH sponsored workshop on social neuroscience.

Areas of Emphasis

  • Linking systematic analyses of affect and social cognition with characterizations of specific brain regions and circuitry.
  • Investigating the interactions among neural, gene, behavioral and endocrine systems in the control of affect and complex social behaviors.
  • Conducting systems-level research on the role of cortical mechanisms of cognition in the regulation of complex social behaviors.
  • Uncovering the neural circuitry and mechanisms mediating the interaction between cognition and emotion.


Janine M. Simmons, MD, Ph.D.
Program Chief
6001 Executive Boulevard, Room 7200, MSC 9637