Feldman Barrett Highlights Need to Integrate Neuroscience and Behavioral Science

April 20th, 2017

At a Friday morning meeting of behavioral and social science representatives at NIH, Dr. Lisa Feldman Barrett, Northeastern University, called for a greater integration of neuroscience with behavioral science as well as the need for a cumulative science to advance research and knowledge. Feldman Barrett addressed the NIH’s Behavioral and Social Sciences Research Coordinating Committee, a group of behavioral and social scientists selected by each of the NIH Institute and Center (IC) Directors and representing all 27 IC’s.

Drawing from research presented in her latest book, “How Emotions are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain,” Dr. Feldman Barrett described the brain as a predictive rather than a reactive organ. The brain, she posits, actively constructs its reality and does not simply respond to it. Action, Dr. Feldman Barrett argued, leads perception. The talk generated a number of questions from NIH attendees, and is already leading to additional engagement from NIH staff.

Beyond the research talk, Feldman Barrett also spoke about what she sees as shortcomings in the NIH peer review process. Specifically, she stated that more senior investigators should be recruited for peer review and that NIH needs to ensure sufficient interdisciplinary expertise on study sections. Dr. William Riley, Director, National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Behavioral and Social Science Research, suggested that Feldman Barrett return to NIH for a fuller discussion of peer review with NIH program and review staff.

Feldman Barrett’s presentation is the latest in a series of talks supported by FABBS and its member scientific societies. The Society of Experimental Social Psychology nominated Lisa Feldman Barrett for the talk.