Through his lab at the California Institute of Technology, David Anderson seeks to find the neural underpinnings of emotions like fear, anxiety and anger.

Why you should listen

How is emotional behavior encoded in the brain? And what parts of the brain are affected by depression, ADHD and anxiety? This is what neurobiologist David Anderson researches in his lab at the California Institute for Technology by studying the brains of lab mice and fruit flies. By looking at how neural circuits give rise to emotions, Anderson hopes to advance a more nuanced view of psychiatric disorders -- that they aren’t the result of a simple “chemical imbalance,” but of a chemical imbalance at a specific site that has a specific emotional consequences. By researching these cause-and-effect relationships, Anderson hopes to pave the way for the development of new treatments for psychiatric disorders that are far more targeted and have far fewer side effects.

Trained by two Nobel laureates, Gunter Blobel and Richard Axel, Anderson is also an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

What others say

“You are at a picnic and a wasp is circling. You swat it away, but it buzzes back again and again, more persistent each time. The wasp seems angry. Or is it? Can insects be 'angry'? David J. Anderson believes that what we perceive as insect anger may share a foundation with human frustration or aggression. ” — Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

David Anderson’s TED talk

David Anderson on the TED Blog

Science

7 talks about fruit flies

March 12, 2013

“Raise your hand if you think that basic research on fruit flies has anything to do with understanding mental illness in humans,” David Anderson begins today’s talk, given at TEDxCaltech. While few hands shoot in the air, Anderson goes on to explain the connection — that research conducted by manipulating brain chemicals in fruit flies […]

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Quotes from David Anderson

[Psychiatric] drugs have so many side effects because using them to treat a complex psychiatric disorder is a bit like trying to change your engine oil by opening a can and pouring it all over the engine block. Some of it will dribble into the right place, but a lot of it will do more harm than good.
David Anderson
TEDxCaltech • 956K views Mar 2013
Informative, Fascinating
The brain is not a bag of chemical soup, and it's a mistake to try to treat complex psychiatric disorders just by changing the flavor.
David Anderson
TEDxCaltech • 956K views Mar 2013
Informative, Fascinating