Joseph E. LeDoux
Joseph E. LeDoux is the Henry and Lucy Moses Professor of Science and Principal Director of the Center for the Neuroscience of Fear and Anxiety at New York University. He is the author of two popular books on neuroscience topics, The Emotional Brain: The Mysterious Underpinnings of Emotional Life and The Synaptic Self: How Our Brains Become Who We Are. He is an alumnus of Stony Brook University, earning a Ph.D. in Psychobiology in 1977. Professor LeDoux has spent the past 20 years studying the neurobiology of emotion. He has chosen to work in the fear system of the brain. The breadth of his research is spectacular, comprising a thoroughgoing investigation at all levels of the neuroscience “stack.” It runs the gauntlet from emotional behavior to the anatomy, physiology, and computational modeling of the brain circuits involved, down to the cell and molecular biology of individual neurons.
From a scientific standpoint, fear is now the best-understood of emotional systems, thanks in part to Professor LeDoux's effort. Many of the most common psychiatric disorders that afflict humans are emotional disorders, and many of these are related to the brain’s fear system, including phobias, panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and generalized anxiety. The fear system is very old, evolutionarily speaking. The best way to understand how the fear system works is not to chase the elusive brain mechanisms of fearful feelings, but instead to study the underlying neural systems that evolved as behavioral solutions to problems of survival. Dr. LeDoux's results are now finding applications in human medicine.