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Lis Nielsen
Title: Division Director
Office(s): Division of Behavioral and Social Research (DBSR)
Phone Number: 301-402-4156
Email Address:


Lisbeth Nielsen, Ph.D., is director of the Division of Behavioral and Social Research (BSR). The Division of Behavioral and Social Research supports social, behavioral, psychological, and economic research and research training on the processes of aging at the individual and societal level. The division fosters cross-disciplinary research, from genetics to cross-national comparative research, supporting investigations along the spectrum from basic through translational research. BSR science combines approaches from biology, neuroscience, and medicine with those of the behavioral and social sciences to elucidate the mechanisms by which behavioral and social factors influence health outcomes in mid-life and older age.  

Nielsen has a long history of leadership in the behavioral and social sciences at NIH, having served in leadership roles in the NIH Science of Behavior Change (SOBC) Common Fund program and the trans-NIH Basic Behavioral and Social Sciences Opportunity Network (OppNet). At NIA, as Chief of the Individual Behavioral Processes Branch, Nielsen has overseen substantial growth in behavioral, psychological, and integrative biobehavioral research. She was instrumental in launching new areas of research in subjective well-being and the social, affective and economic neurosciences of aging. She helped found several innovative research networks linking behavioral and population scientists to tackle questions related to the influences of stress on physical health, and on the potential for midlife reversibility of health risks associated with early life adversity. She has been an advocate for the study of aging processes across the full life course, including research on early life influences on later life outcomes and on processes in midlife that play a causal role in shaping trajectories of aging.

Nielsen holds a BA in Philosophy from Rhodes College, a Master’s degree in Psychology from Copenhagen University, and a Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology and Cognitive Science from the University of Arizona. Prior to joining NIA in 2005, Nielsen conducted research in affective and decision science of aging at Stanford University. She is a fellow of the Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research, the Association for Psychological Science, and the Mind and Life Institute.

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