Home  /  Series  /  Behind the Book  /  The Nature of the Beast ● 5/17/2022

Behind The Book with David J. Anderson

Tuesday, May 17, 2022 at 5 p.m. PT • Virtual Event

"Fearlessly, David Anderson takes on the central issue of neuroscience and provides a roadmap to truly understand this reality.” — Michael S. Gazzaniga, University of California, Santa Barbara

Does your dog get sad when you leave for the day? Does your cat purr because she loves you? Do bears attack when they're angry? You can't very well ask them.

In fact, scientists haven't been able to reach a consensus on whether animals even have emotions, like humans do, let alone how to study them. Yet studies of animal emotion are critical for understanding human emotion and mental illness.

While emotions are something that humans experience every day of our lives, we know relatively little about how our brains create them. While humans infer that animals also have emotions, especially the pets that we love, some studies argue that emotions – or at least emotional feelings – are something uniquely human, like the ability to make music, write poetry or perform mathematics.

Anderson describes a new way to look at the submerged part of the emotional iceberg – the non-conscious part – and to study whether and how it is produced by the brains of animals as diverse as mice and fruit flies. To do this, he deconstructs emotions into basic, biological building blocks, and investigates how these core features – or "emotion primitives:" -- control universal behaviors, such as fight and flight, in animals.

Join us live as author David J. Anderson and Psychology, Neuroscience and Biology Professor Ralph Adolphs discuss this fascinating subject, followed by Q&A.

David J. Anderson

About David J. Anderson

David J. Anderson, Ph.D., is Seymour Benzer Professor of Biology at the California Institute of Technology where he has been on the faculty since 1986.  Dr. Anderson is also Director and Leadership Chair of the Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute for Neuroscience and an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Dr. Anderson received his A.B. from Harvard, Ph.D. from the Rockefeller University under Günter Blobel, and was a postdoctoral fellow with Richard Axel at Columbia.

About Ralph Adolphs

Ralph Adolphs, obtained his Ph.D. at Caltech in 1993, subsequently conducted postdoctoral work with Antonio Damasio in lesion patients, and has been on the faculty at Caltech since 2004. Ralph's laboratory includes undergraduate students, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and staff that all work on elucidating the neural underpinnings of social behavior. The lab studies several clinical populations, including neurosurgical patients, individuals with rare brain lesions, and people with autism. Extensive use is also made of the adjacent Caltech Brain Imaging Center, and maintains close collaborations with other laboratories at Caltech in both the divisions of biology and the humanities and social sciences.

Praise for The Nature of the Beast

"The Nature of the Beast presents an insightful new framework for understanding how the brain regulates emotion … Of all the major emotion books to have come out in the past decade, this is the most illuminating and useful of the bunch. An incredible work." —Dr. Daniel Levitin, author of Successful Aging