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