Dr. Atlas is a Senior Investigator at NIH and Chief of the Section on Affective Neuroscience and Pain within the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health’s Intramural Research Program. She holds joint appointments with the National Institute of Mental Health and National Institute on Drug Abuse and is an Adjunct Faculty in the University of Maryland’s Program in Neuroscience and Cognitive Science. Dr. Atlas received her B.A. in psychology from the University of Chicago in 2003, and her Ph.D. in psychology in 2011 from Columbia University, where she studied under the mentorship of Dr. Tor D. Wager. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship with Dr. Elizabeth Phelps at New York University’s Department of Psychology in 2014. Her laboratory uses a multimodal approach to investigate how expectations and learning influence pain and emotion, and how these factors influence clinical outcomes.


  • BA
    Psychology, University of Chicago
  • PhD
    Psychology, Columbia University

Our work focuses on characterizing the psychological and neural mechanisms by which expectations and other cognitive and affective factors influence pain, emotional experience, and clinical outcomes. Our approach is multimodal: We integrate experimental psychology, neuroimaging, psychophysiology, computational approaches, and other interventions to understand how psychological and contextual factors influence subjective experience. Current projects focus on dissociating components of expectancy, relating pain with emotion and other types of hedonic affective responses, and understanding social influences on pain (e.g., patient-provider interactions; health disparities). Long-term goals include revealing how specific features of the clinical context and interpersonal aspects influence patient outcomes, as well as determining whether expectancy-based processing is altered in specific patient populations.

Research Methods
Computational Modeling
Research Interests

Current Students

Former Students

Photo of Dr. Atlas
NIH, Building 10, Room 4-1741 10 Center Drive Bethesda, Maryland 20892
Neuroscience and Cognitive Science
lauren.atlas [at] nih.gov