Dr Shmuel Lissek

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Dept of Psychology
N218 Elliott Hall

75 E River Rd

What happens in the human brain and body during fear-related learning, memory, and decision making? What aberrancies in these psychobiological processes are associated with the emotional, cognitive, and behavioral symptoms of clinical anxiety? These questions of central interest are addressed using neuroimaging, psychophysiologic, pharmacologic, and behavioral assays of classical and operant fear-conditioning. The cross-species nature of this conditioning approach brings to bear a wealth of animal data with which to elucidate the neurobiology of fear and behavioral avoidance in the human instance. Specific areas of interest include: 1) the generalization of conditioned fear to stimuli resembling the learned danger-cue as a pathogenic marker of PTSD, panic disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder; 2) the neurobiology, psychophysiology, and pharmacologic-modifiability of conditioned fear generalization; 3) the conditioning-dependent plasticity in neural representations of learned danger-cues that may subserve the generalization process; and 4) the psychobiologic substrates of classically conditioned fear as predictors of operant avoidance.

Educational Background & Specialties

Educational Background

  • B.A.: Columbia University, 1995.
  • Ph.D.: St. John's University, 2002.

Curriculum Vitae


  • Brain basis of anxiety
  • Anxiety disorders
  • PTSD
  • Anxiety-related decision making
  • Generalization of conditioned fear
Courses Taught
  • Introduction to Abnormal Psychology (PSY 3604)
  • Brain and Emotion (PSY 5064)
  • Graduate Seminar on Neuroscience, Philosophy, and Ethics (PSY 5960)
  • Hammell, A.E., Helwig, N.E., Kaczkurkin,, A.N., Sponheim, S.R., and Lissek, S. (in press). The temporal course of over-generalized conditioned threat expectancies in posttraumatic stress disorder. Behaviour Research and Therapy.
  • Hunt, C., Cooper, S.E, Hartnell, M.P., & Lissek, S. (2019). Anxiety sensitivity and intolerance of uncertainty facilitate associations between generalized Pavlovian fear and maladaptive avoidance decisions. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 128, 315-326.
  • Lange, I., Goossens, L., Bakker, J., Michielse, S., van Winkel, R., Lissek, S., Leibold, N., Marcelis, M., Wichers, M., van Os, J., van Amelsvoort, T., & Schruers, K. (2019). Neurobehavioural mechanisms of threat generalization moderate the link between childhood maltreatment and psychopathology in emerging adulthood. Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience, 44, 185-194.
  • Cooper, S., Grillon, C., & Lissek, S. (2018). Impaired discriminative fear conditioning during later training trials differentiates generalized anxiety disorder, but not panic disorder, from healthy control participants. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 85, 84-93.
  • Marquardt, C.A., Goldman, D.J., Lissek, S., Cuthbert, B.N., & Sponheim, S.R. (2018). Symptoms of PTSD and not mild traumatic brain injury best account for disrupted emotional responding in OEF/OIF U.S. military personnel. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 31, 114-124.
  • Kaczkurkin, A.N., Burton, P.C., Chazin, S.M., Manbeck, A.B., Espensen-Sturges, T., Cooper, S.E., Sponheim, S.R., & Lissek, S. (2017). Neural substrates of over-generalized conditioned fear in posttraumatic stress disorder. American Journal of Psychiatry, 174, 125-134.
  • Lange, I., Goossens, L., Michielse, S., Bakker, J., Lissek, S., Papalini, S., Verhagen, S., Leibold, N., Marcelis, M., Wichers, M., Lieverse, R., van Os, J., van Amelsvoort, T., & Schruers, K. (2017). Behavioral pattern separation and its link to the neural mechanisms of fear generalization. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 12, 1720-1729.
  • Hunt, C., Cooper, S.E., Hartnell, M.P., and Lissek, S. (2017). Distraction/Suppression and Distress Endurance diminish the extent to which generalized conditioned fear is associated with maladaptive behavioral-avoidance. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 96, 90-105.
  • Lissek, S., van Meurs, B. (2015). Learning models of PTSD: Theoretical accounts and psychobiological evidence. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 98, 594-605.
  • Duits, P., Cath, D.C., Lissek, S., Hox, J.J., Hamm, A. O., van de Hout, M.A., Engelhard, I.M. & Baas, J.M.P. (2015). An updated meta-analysis of classical fear-conditioning in the anxiety disorders. Depression and Anxiety, 32, 239-253.
  • Lissek, S., Bradford, D.E., Alvarez, R.P., Burton, P., Espensen-Sturges, T., Reynolds, R.C., and Grillon, C. (2014). Neural substrates of classically conditioned fear-generalization in humans: A parametric fMRI study. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 9, 1134-42.
  • Lissek, S., Kaczkurkin, A.N., Rabin, S., Geraci, M., Pine, D.S., and Grillon, C. (2014). Generalized anxiety disorder is associated with overgeneralization of classically conditioned-fear. Biological Psychiatry, 75, 909-915.
  • Van Meurs, B., Wiggert, N., Wicker, I., Lissek, S. (2014). Maladaptive behavioral consequences of conditioned fear-generalization: A pronounced, yet sparsely studied, feature of anxiety pathology. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 57, 29-37.
  • Kaczkurkin, A.N, Lissek, S. (2013). Generalization of conditioned fear in individuals with high and low obsessive-compulsive traits. Journal of Psychology & Psychotherapy. S7: 003, 1-7.