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Rotem Leshem

Ph.D., Clinical Criminologist

Dr. Leshem is a senior lecturer and serves as the Head of the Neurocriminology M.A. Program and Deputy Head of the Undergraduate Program at Bar-Ilan University’s Criminology Department. Her academic credentials include masters and doctoral degrees in Clinical Criminology from Bar-Ilan University and a Certificate in Psychotherapy from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. Dr. Leshem completed her postdoctoral training at UCLA’s Cognitive Neuroscience Lab, funded by an International Outgoing Fellowship (IOF) from the Marie Curie Actions People Program. While pursuing interdisciplinary research focused broadly on impulsivity and related cognitive functions, she has also amassed extensive experience as a therapist addressing emotional and behavioral challenges in adolescents with emotional and behavioral difficulties at various government institutions for at-risk youth. She also serves as an official prison visitor for the Israel Prison Service (Ministry of Internal Security). Bringing these worlds together, she believes strongly that ties with the community are crucial to advancing both theoretical research in Criminology and practical applications for at-risk populations.



I seek to understand social behavior, particularly impulsivity and aggression, in my work with various adolescent and adult populations with and without criminal backgrounds. Combining behavioral and neuroimaging methods in criminology, psychology and neuroscience, my interdisciplinary approach leans on research in three interrelated areas: personality, social cognition, and neurobiology.


The fundamental premise guiding my work is that reciprocal ties between the social environment and neurological substrates ultimately determine human behavior. By strengthening or weakening integrative communication among the neural systems underlying emotion and cognition, environmental factors and life experiences can influence and modify behavior.


  • Personality traits, particularly impulsivity, and their association with emotion/reward-driven versus goal-driven behaviors.

  • Emotion identification and emotional processing in relation to impulsivity and aggressive behavior.

  • Executive functions recruited during decision-making, emotional and behavioral regulation, and mindful attention.

  • Hemispheric specialization and brain mechanisms underlying cognitive functions, particularly attention, language and emotion.



Current and past research in the lab and the field:

  • Using metaphoric language to identify impulsivity and planned and unplanned aggressive behavior among adolescents and adults.

  • Effects of mindfulness training (mindful attention) on emotional and behavioral regulation.

  • Ties between physical state (physical activity, motion), cognition (attention and concentration, emotional and behavioral regulation, conscious and goal-directed behavior) and emotion (negative and positive emotions).

  • Assessment of emotional and cognitive skills among adolescents with criminal records in a vocational educational project for at-risk youth, aimed at providing occupational and life skills to enable community integration – in collaboration with the "Youth of Light” non-profit organization.

  • Processing and identifying emotions in spoken language among individuals with schizophrenia convicted of violent crimes – in collaboration with the Maximum Secure Unit, Sha’ar Menashe Mental Health Center.

  • Emotion identification ability among violent males with criminal backgrounds – in collaboration with Israel’s Adult Probation Service.

Selected Publications


  1. Leshem, R. (2024). Internal and external crime hot spots: From neural to micro-geographical Networks. International Annals of Criminology.

  2. Leshem, R., & Mashal, N. (2024). What does metaphoric language say about aggression? The relationships between metaphoric language, impulsivity, and aggression. Acta Psychologica, 243, 104173.‏

  3. Leshem, R., Heltai, S. H., & Mashal, N. (2023). Personality traits and environment: The effects of observing visual art on verbal creativity.‏ Progress in Brain Research, 277, 85-108.

  4. Leshem, R., Icht, M., & Ben-David, B.M (2022). Processing of spoken emotions in schizophrenia: Forensic and non-forensic patients differ in emotional identification and integration but not in selective attention. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 13, 5403.  

  5. Paoletti, P., Leshem, R., Pellegrino, M., D., & Ben-Soussan, T. (2022). Tackling the Electro-topography of the Selves through the Sphere Model of Consciousness, Frontiers in Psychology, 13, 836290.

  6. Leshem, R., & King, R. (2021). Trait impulsivity and callous‐unemotional traits as predictors of inhibitory control and risky choices among high‐risk adolescents. International journal of psychology, 56(2), 314-321.‏

  7. Leshem, R., & Altman C. (2021). Distinct effects of executive functioning, impulsivity and anxiety on global and local reading comprehension. Frontiers in Education, 6, 746978.

  8. Menashe, S., Leshem, R., heruti, V., kasirer, A., Iyair, T., & Mashal, N. (2020). Elucidating the role of selective attention, divergent thinking, language abilities, and executive functions in metaphor generation. Neuropsychologia, 142, 107458.

  9. Leshem, R., A.De Fano, & Ben-Soussan, T.D. (2020). The Implications of Motor and Cognitive Inhibition for Hot and Cool Executive Functions: The Case of Quadrato Motor Training. Frontiers Psychology, 11, 940.

  10. Leshem, R. (2020). There are more than two sides to antisocial behavior: The Inextricable Link between Hemispheric Specialization and Environment. Symmetry, 12(10), 1671.

  11. Leshem, R., Icht, M., Bentzur, R., & Ben-David, B.M (2020). Processing of emotions in speech in forensic patients with schizophrenia: Impairments in identification, selective attention, and integration of speech channels. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 11, 1227.

  12. Leshem, R., & Weisburd, D. (2019). Epigenetics and Hot Spots of Crime: Rethinking the Relationship between Genetics and Criminal Behavior. Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, 35(2), 186-204.

  13. Leshem, R., van Lieshout, P.H.H.M., Ben-David, S., & Ben-David, B.M. (2019). Does emotion matter? The role of alexithymia in violent recidivism: a systematic literature review. Criminal Behaviour and Mental Health, 29, 94-110.

  14. Leshem, R., & Yefet, M. (2019). Does impulsivity converge distinctively with inhibitory control? Disentangling the cold and hot aspects of inhibitory control. Personality and Individual differences, 145, 44-51.

  15. Leshem, R. Paoletti, P., Piervincenzi, C., Carducci, F., Mallio, C.A., Errante, Y., Quattrocchi, C.C., & Ben-Soussan, T.D. (2019). Inward versus reward: White matter pathways in extraversion. Personality Neuroscience, 2, 1-9. Cambridge University Press.

  16. Leshem, R. (2018). Trait Anxiety and Attention: Cognitive Functioning as a Function of Attentional Demands. Current Psychology, 1-13.‏

  17. Leshem, R. (2016). Using Dual Process Models to Examine Impulsivity throughout Neural Maturation. Developmental Neuropsychology, 41(1-2), 125-143.

  18. Leshem, R. (2016). Brain Development, Impulsivity, Risky Decision Making, and Cognitive Control: Integrating Cognitive and Socioemotional Processes During Adolescence—An Introduction to the Special Issue. Developmental Neuropsychology, 41(1-2), 1-5.

  19. Leshem, R., Armoni-Sivan, R., & Arzouan, Y. (2015). The effects of sad prosody on hemispheric specialization for words processing. Brain & Cognition, 96, 28-37.

  20. Leshem, R. (2015). Relationships between trait impulsivity and cognitive control: Examining the effect of attention switching on response inhibition and conflict resolution in non- clinical impulsivity. Cognitive Processing, 17(1), 89-103.



I invite prospective MA and PhD students who are interested in undertaking lab or field research in any of my areas of interest to contact me regarding supervision.



The conference of the International Society for the Study of Individual Differences (ISSID), Florence

Other events

"Youth of Light”
Project launched by Patrizio Paoletti Foundation for Development and Communication, Research Institute for Neuroscience, Education and Didactics, Italy

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