Winner: Young Investigator of the year (applied science) award

Dr Naomi I. Eisenberger, University of California, Los Angeles, USA

eisenberger 1. From the Commendations by the Jury

 We honor Naomi I. Eisenberger for her creative, insightful, and landmark  observations about research pertaining to ostracism/rejection and social  pain,  and their impact on the brain. Her work has changed the paradigm in  the study  of social rejection, and has uniquely elucidated the bidirectional  connections  between social relationships and physical health.

 2. Short Profile

 Naomi Eisenberger is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of  Psychology at UCLA, and Director of the Social and Affective  Neuro-science  Laboratory. She studied Psychology at UCLA, and in 2005    was awarded her  PhD. Her dissertation was entitled: Social rejection and  connection: Neural,  physiological, and experiential correlates.

Dr Eisenberger works in health psychology and social neuro-science, specifically on how people respond both to social pain, such as rejection or hurtful interactions, and to supportive interactions. Her methodologies combine reports of everyday experience with neuro-imaging and physiological measures of responses to social stressors. While it is known that a lack of social support constitutes a major risk factor for morbidity, there has been little understanding of either the mechanisms underlying this relationship nor how experiences of social support translate into the health outcomes that follow. Naomi’s research has changed this situation: her studies, particularly on how the neuro-circuitry for physical and social pain overlap, have been influential in terms of both their empirical results and their theoretical contributions to understanding social support and social pain. Her initial study in this area, published in Science in 2003, is very highly cited. She has published extensively in high-ranking scientific journals.

In her short career to date, Naomi Eisenberger has received a number of fellowship, awards and other honors. These include a Faculty Career Development Award and Chancellor’s Award for Postdoctoral Research from UCLA and early career awards from the American Psychosomatic Society, the Association for Psychological Science, and the Society for Personality and Social Psychology.

3. Award Statement

The IUPsyS Young Investigator Award (Applied Science) 2012 goes to Dr Naomi Eisenberger, Assistant Professor, University of California, Los Angeles, USA

Naomi Eisenberger’s work addresses the question of why our social relationships have such a profound impact on our emotional and physical well-being. She uses behavioral, physiological, and neuro-imaging techniques to understand how our need for social connection has left its mark on our minds, brains, and bodies. The topics of her research include the neural bases of social rejections and of social connection, and the social support benefits physical and mental health.

Her early paper on social pain published in Science in 2003 is not only highly cited but received enormous media attention. Many influential publications have followed, demonstrating her single-minded pursuit of a research program that has illuminated and elaborated on her basic findings, and examined how they link up with relevant phenomena of everyday life.

More recently, her work has moved increasingly towards elucidating the bi-directional connections between social relationships and physical health, and here she has shown that the pain-related brain systems involved in social rejection are modulated by the experience of social support, which in turn influences levels of stress hormones, and furthermore that the activation of these systems predicts inflammatory responses to social stressors.