David J. Anderson, Ph.D.

California Institute of Technology
Howard Hughes Medical Institute

David J. Anderson is the Seymour Benzer Professor of Biology at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He received his Ph.D. in cell biology from the Rockefeller University, where he trained with Nobel Laureate Günter Blobel. He completed his postdoctoral training at Columbia University with Nobel Laureate Richard Axel. For the first 20 years of his career, Anderson’s research focused on the biology of neural stem cells and their role in brain development. He was the first to isolate a multipotential neural stem cell from the mammalian nervous system. Over the last twenty years, Anderson has switched his research focus to the study of neural circuits that control emotional behaviors in animal models. He has been at the forefront of developing and applying new technologies for neural circuit manipulation, such as optogenetics and pharmacogenetics, to the study of emotional behaviors such as fear, anxiety and aggression, in both mice and fruit flies. His work in mice is currently focused on limbic circuits, including the amygdala and hypothalamus, and their role in aggression.

Anderson has trained close to 40 postdoctoral fellows and Ph.D. students in his 27 years on the faculty at Caltech. He has been a recipient of continuous research support from the National Institutes of Health since 1986, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator since 1989. He has received additional funding from agencies and foundations such as the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation, the Pew Foundation and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and is a Paul G. Allen Distinguished Investigator. Anderson’s awards include an NSF Presidential Young Investigator Award, Searle Scholars Award, the Charles Judson Herrick Award in comparative neurology and the W. Alden Spencer Award in neurobiology from Columbia University. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and, in 2007, was elected to the National Academy of Sciences.

Current Project: Outer brain and inner brain: computational principles and interactions

Past Project: Neural computation of innate defensive behavioral decisions

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