Yael Cycowicz, PhD

  • Associate Professor of Clinical Neurobiology (in Psychiatry)


Yael Cycowicz, Ph.D is an Associate Professor of Clinical Neurobiology in Psychiatry at Columbia University, Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, and a Research Scientist at the New York State Psychiatric Institute (NYSPI). Dr. Cycowicz received her M.Sc in Neurobiology from the Hebrew University Hadassah Medical School in Jerusalem, and then her Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology from New York University.

She is the Director of the Neuro-Cognitive and Emotion Lab (NCEL) which investigates attention, memory and emotional regulation mechanisms and processes. Currently, her focus is on understanding the impact of trauma on mental health across the life span, its spread across generations, and its influence among family members. Dr. Cycowicz is also a member of the Global Psychiatric Epidemiology Group (GPEG) where she investigates mental health impact of children whose parents are involved with the criminal justice system.Beyond her research interests, Dr. Cycowicz is actively involved with student development and teaching, mentoring students from the Institute of Human Nutrition and junior faculty and teaching at Columbia College and New York University.

Email: yc60@cumc.columbia.edu

Phone: 646-774-5837

Academic Appointments

  • Associate Professor of Clinical Neurobiology (in Psychiatry)

Administrative Titles

  • Neuro-Cognitive and Emotion Laboratory (NCEL), Director

Credentials & Experience

Honors & Awards

  • Fellowship at McDonnell Summer Institute, Dartmouth College and Medical School
  • Medical Faculty Prize for Outstanding Performance, Hebrew University Hadassah Medical School.
  • Lev Prize for Excellence in Natural Science, Michlalah Jerusalem College for Women.


Dr. Cycowicz research interests have primarily focused on the neuronal mechanisms underlying changes in attention and memory, particularly as individuals develop and age. She applies her expertise in translational research such as neurostimulation therapies for treatment resistant depression (TRD), risk for substance use disorders, and trauma-related functional decline.Over the years she has been using different neuroimaging modalities (MEG, EEG, ERP and fMRI) to investigate neuronal underpinning of cognitive and perceptual functions.

Emotion and Memory Study-NIOSH/CDCU01 OH011694

The increase of terror attacks and gun violence in the United States in the last decade poses a growing challenge to the mental health of the civilian population. Extensive evidence indicates that adults exposed to severe trauma have lasting behavioral-emotional changes, and are at elevated risk of developing mental health problems. The long-lasting effect of trauma exposures increases the risk for anxiety disorders, depression and substance use disorder. However, much less is known about the effect of 9/11 on the brains circuits of those exposed to 9/11 during childhood or adolescence, when the developing brain is most vulnerable, and trauma can be expected to have the greatest long-term impact. As these individuals are now young adults, it is imperative that we understand the relevant brain circuitry sensitive to trauma, if we are to mitigate these effects in a timely fashion. In this, Emotion and Memory Study we investigate the emotion and memory brain processes among those who were exposed to 9/11 as children and young adolescents.We expect that the results will facilitate ongoing neuro-behavioral monitoring of this group’s mental health trajectory, and promote targeted intervention strategies.

World Trade Center – Intergenerational Transmission of Trauma (WTC-ITT) StudyNIOSH/CDC U01 OH012065

Parental experience of trauma has been shown to impact the psychological well-being of children even when the children themselves were not directly exposed to the traumatic event, and such impacts may be long-term and persistent. The purpose of this study is to learn more about the transmission of trauma from parent to child related to the 9/11 terror attack. It has been discovered that following the WTC attack, over 20% of police officers and more than 30% of relief workers reported behavioral issues with their children at home or in school. However, there was no follow up on the life of these children.This study will assess the mental well-being of world trade center responders who have PTSD and their now-adult children. We hope that this study will aid in support of first responders and their families.

Research Interests

  • Neurodevelopment
  • Impact of Trauma and PTSD on cognitive and emotional functions
  • Neuroimaging of attention and memory

Research Interests

  • Attention
  • Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Development over the Life Span (including aging)
  • Memory
  • Risk for Substance Use Disorder
  • Trauma

Selected Publications

Rodriguez-Moreno, D. V*., Cycowicz, Y. M*., Figner, B., Wang, Z., He, X., Geronazzo-Alman, L., Sun, X., Cheslack-Postava, K., Bisaga, A., Hoven, C. W., & Amsel, L. V. (2021). Delay discounting and neurocognitive correlates among inner city adolescents with and without family history of substance use disorder.Developmental cognitive neuroscience,48, 100942.https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dcn.2021.100942

*Both authors contributed equally to this manuscript

Kishon, R., Geronazzo-Alman, L., Teichman, M., Teichman, Y., Cheslack-Postava, K., Fan, B., Duarte, C. S., Wicks, J., Musa, G. J., Djalovski, A., Tadmor, B., Moreno, D. R., Cycowicz, Y., Amsel, L., Bresnahan, M., & Hoven, C. W. (2020). Parental Occupational Exposure is Associated with Their Children's Psychopathology: A Study of Families of Israeli First Responders. Journal of occupational and environmental medicine, 62(11), 904–915. https://doi.org/10.1097/JOM.0000000000001971

Cycowicz, Y.M. (2019). Orienting to Unexpected and/or Unfamiliar Visual Events in Children and Adults. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience 36: 100615

Cycowicz, Y.M., Rowny, S.B., Luber, B., Lisanby, S.H., (2018). Differences in Seizure Expression between Magnetic Seizure Therapy and Electroconvulsive Shock. Journal of ECT, 34:87-94.