California Institute of Technology neurobiologist Dr David J. Anderson, a leader in the neurobiological foundations of emotion, was the Featured Speaker of the Eighth Annual Cell Press-TNQ India Distinguished Lectureship Series. As part of the series, he gave lectures in New Delhi, Bengaluru and Mumbai, in January 2018.
In addition to the lectures, he visited scientific institutions in each city and met with students and faculty to learn about the work going on in their labs. The Annual Lectureship series is aimed at bringing the highest calibre of global scientists to interact and exchange knowledge with the Indian scientific community.
His most recent work challenges the widespread presumption among neuroscientists that brain circuits responsible for innate behaviours are hardwired. His lab found that mice that have socialized with their peers activate specific and different neurons upon detection of an intruder, depending on whether the intruder is male or female.
Conversely, mice that had never been exposed to other rodents activate similar neurons in response to intruders of either sex. This provides evidence that mice do not have sex-specific neural assemblies from birth, but rather that these pathways develop in response to life experience.
Dr Anderson began his career in neurobiology by studying neural crest stem cells, which, during development, generate many cells and tissues, including brain cells. He was the first to isolate a multipotent self-renewing stem cell for neurons and glia and to identify growth factors and master transcriptional regulators involved in this switch.
Dr Anderson received his AB from Harvard University in 1978 and his PhD from Rockefeller University in 1983 under the supervision of Nobel Laureate Dr Gunter Blobel. He was a postdoctoral fellow at Columbia with another Nobel Laureate, the neurobiologist Dr Richard Axel. In 1999, he received the Alden Spencer Award in Neurobiology from Columbia University.