Wednesday, 6 November 2013

David Anderson: Your brain is more than a bag of chemicals

Modern psychiatric drugs treat the chemistry of the whole brain, but neurobiologist David Anderson believes in a more nuanced view of how the brain functions. He illuminates new research that could lead to targeted psychiatric medications -- that work better and avoid side effects. How's he doing it? For a start, by making a bunch of fruit flies angry. (Filmed at TEDxCaltech.)

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 to him:     
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

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