Recent advances…

Our mission

The overarching mission of our lab is to have a deep impact on the intersecting fields of clinical, affective, and personality neuroscience. To that end, we strive to perform innovative studies that can lead to significant discoveries, to disseminate our discoveries as widely as possible, and to mentor trainees to become top-notch scientists.

Our research is focused on understanding the mechanisms that support the development and maintenance of internalizing disorders and substance abuse in the first three decades of life. Much of our work is focused on identifying the distributed neural circuitry underlying fearful and anxious states and traits (e.g., anxious temperament, behavioral inhibition, neuroticism). These traits first emerge early in development and, when extreme, confer increased risk for the development of a variety of common and debilitating illnesses. To understand the origins and natural course of this liability, we use a broad spectrum of tools—including multimodal neuroimaging (MRI, PET), acute alcohol manipulations, peripheral physiological measures, eye-tracking, ecological momentary assessment (EMA), semi-structured clinical and life-stress interviews, machine-learning and genetic analyses—in a variety of populations—child and adolescent anxiety patients, young adults, community-dwelling smokers, and monkeys—working closely with collaborators in North America, Israel, Korea, and Germany. Clinically, our work promises to enhance our understanding of how emotional states and traits contribute to a range of psychiatric disorders, facilitate the discovery of novel intermediate phenotypes and biomarkers, and set the stage for developing more effective transdiagnostic interventions. From a basic psychological science perspective, our work begins to address fundamental questions about the nature and the origins of temperament and the interplay of emotion and cognition—questions that often cannot be addressed using traditional behavioral or psychometric measures.

Our work is supported by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), and University of Maryland.


Alexander J. Shackman, Ph.D.
Lab Director
University of Maryland
3123G Biology-Psychology Building
College Park, MD 20742-4411