The neural coding of emotion primitives - David Anderson

Event Details:

Thursday, March 11, 2021
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12:00pm to 1:00pm PST
Event Sponsor
Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute
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Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute Seminar Series Presents

David Anderson, PhD 

The Seymour Benzer Professor of Biology at the California Institute of Technology and Director, Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute for Neuroscience

Host: Konstantin Kaganovsky


Behaviors that are fundamental to animal survival, such as mating or the fight-or-flight response, are driven by internal emotional or motivational states. In humans, these brain states are subjectively experienced and expressed as “feelings,” such as desire, rage, or terror. Understanding the causal brain mechanisms that govern these states, using powerful new tools such as optogenetics and calcium imaging, should ultimately lead to better treatments for neuropsychiatric disorders. However, such invasive and perturbative studies are best performed in animal models. This poses the problem of how to study an animal’s internal state in the absence of information about subjective feelings. Operant conditioning can be used to measure motivational states underlying homeostatic behaviors, but are more difficult to apply to naturalistic social behaviors and invertebrate model organisms. As an alternative, we have begun to study “emotion primitives,” meta-behavioral features generally exhibited by state-dependent but not reflexive responses. These features include persistence, scalability, valence and generalization. They can be thought of as evolutionary “building blocks” of emotion. In this talk I will describe our efforts to understand the neural encoding of these primitives, using both flies and mice as model systems.


Learning Objectives:

  1. Understand how internal behavioral states can be studied in model organisms without relying upon verbal report of subjective feelings
  2. Learn why persistence is an important feature of emotional responses and how its encoding can be studied in different systems
  3. Learn about the complementary advantages of studying these properties in flies and mice