Kevin Ochsner, PhD

Kevin Ochsner, PhD

Research Interest

Neural systems supporting self-control, social behavior and emotion

Humans are a fundamentally social species. We evolved to live and thrive in groups, which can be a complex business. Successfully building, nourishing and navigating our ever-changing social roles and relationships requires various kinds of cognitive and emotional skills. Chief among them are the capacities for self-control, social cognition and adaptive emotional responding. Self-control allows us to reign and even transform context-inappropriate emotions and behavioral impulses, and select alternatives that are context appropriate. Social cognition allows us to understand the nature of our own - and others - thoughts and emotions, and in turn empathize with them. When adaptive, our emotional responses inform us about how and why people, events, and experiences matters to us, thereby providing a map for how we should think, feel and act. These three kinds of skills - self-control, social cognition and adaptive emotional responding - often work together. For example, when we want to learn how to better regulate our emotions (which often are elicited by our interactions with others), or when we need to understand who is a member of the groups and social networks to which we belong, where we stand relative to one another within these groups, and to whom we would go for help in times of need. We combine sensitive and ecologically valid behavioral measurements with functional imaging techniques to understand these and many other aspects of our social and emotional lives - from the cortical and subcortical neural systems that gives rise to specific positive or negative emotions - to the fronto-temporal networks that enable us to connect with and understand other people’s emotions - to the lateral and medial prefrontal regions that enable us to successfully regulate our own or others emotions. We study these neural systems as they change across the typically developing lifespan, from childhood to adolescence, young adulthood and into older age. And we study the ways they break down - and their function can be enhanced with behavioral interventions - in Psychiatric and Substance Using populations.

Satpute, A., Nook, E., Narayanan, S., Shu, S., Weber, J. & Ochsner, K. N. (in press).  Emotions in black and white or shades of gray: Decisions about emotion shape neural representations of emotion. Psychological Science. 

Zaki, J., Kallman, S., Wimmer, E., *Ochsner, K. N. & *Shohamy, D. (in press). Social cognition as reinforcement learning: Feedback modulates emotion inference. * = equal contribution. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience.

Reeck, C., Ames. D. R. & Ochsner, K. N. (2016). The Social Regulation of Emotion: An Integrative, Cross-disciplinary Model. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 20, 47-63.

Silvers, J. A., Hubbard, A. D., Chaudhury, S, Biggs, E., Shu, S., Grunebaum, M. F., Fertuck, E., Weber, J., Kober, H., Carson-Wong, A., Brodsky, B. S., Chesin, M., Ochsner, K. N., & Stanley, B. (2016). Suicide attempters with Borderline Personality Disorder show differential parietal recruitment when regulating emotional responses to aversive memories. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 81, 71-78.

Zerubavel, N., Bearman, P., Weber, J. & Ochsner, K. N. (2015). Neural systems tracking popularity in real-world social networks. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(49), 15072-15077.

Denny, B. T., & Inhoff, M., Zerubavel, N., Davchi, L. & Ochsner, K. N. (2015). Getting over it: Evidence for long-lasting effects of emotion regulation on amygdala response. Psychological Science, 26(9), 1377-1388.

Silvers, J. .A., Shu, J., Hubbard, A., Weber, J. & Ochsner, K. N. (2015). Concurrent and lasting effects of emotion regulation on amygdala response in adolescence and young adulthood. Developmental Science, 18:5, 771-784.

Naqvi, N., Ochsner, K. N., Kober, H., Kuerbis, A., Feng, T., Wall, M. & Kobenigsberg, J. (2015). Cognitive Regulation of Craving in Alcohol Dependent and Social Drinkers.  Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 39, 343-349.

Satpute, A., Badre, D. & Ochsner, K. N. (2014). Distinct regions of prefrontal cortex are associated with the controlled retrieval and selection of social information. Cerebral Cortex, 24, 1269-1277.

Buhle, J. T., Silvers, J. A., Wager, T. D., Lopez, R., Onyemekwu, C., Kober, H., Weber, H. & Ochsner, K. N. (2014). Cognitive Reappraisal of Emotion: A Meta-Analysis of Human Neuroimaging Studies. Cerebral Cortex, 24, 2981-2990.

Satpute, A. B., Shu, J., Weber, J., Roy, M., and Ochsner, K. N. (2013). The Functional Neural Architecture of Self-Reports of Affective Experience. Biological Psychiatry, 73(7), 631-638.

Green, M. F., Lee, J., & Ochsner, K. N. (2013). Adapting Social Neuroscience Measures for Schizophrenia Clinical Trials, Part 1: Ferrying Paradigms Across Perilous Waters. Schizophrenia Bulletin, 39(6), 1192-1200.

  • Neural bases of emotion, self-control and social behavior