My name is Anita Devineni, and I’m a neuroscientist at Columbia University. My work uses genetic, molecular, and optical tools to reveal how brain circuits translate sensory information from the world into appropriate behavioral responses.
The mysteries of the brain first seduced me when I was an undergraduate at Stanford University. Lectures by the brilliant and eccentric Prof Robert Sapolsky initially sparked my interest in neuroscience. I worked as an undergrad research assistant in Liqun Luo’s lab for a couple years where I studied how neurons form the proper connections during development. The Luo lab is where I fell in love with research and learned that (most) scientists are normal people and not total weirdos as I’d assumed. It’s also where I fell in love with fruit flies, which I initially thought were super gross but eventually captured my heart.
I then entered a PhD program in neuroscience at UC San Francisco. Working in Ulrike Heberlein’s lab (now at the HHMI Janelia Research Campus), I studied the genes and brain circuits that regulate behavioral responses to alcohol in fruit flies. So basically I got flies drunk for a living. Yes, drunk flies do behave a lot like drunk humans (for example, check out this video from my former colleague Fred Wolf).
After I got my PhD in 2012 I moved to New York, where I’m currently doing a postdoc with Richard Axel at Columbia University. I’m still working on fruit flies, trying to understand how the neural pathway for sensing taste is modulated by hunger, causing animals to perceive food differently depending on whether they’re starving or completely stuffed.
As a professional neuroscientist I feel that we have an obligation to communicate our understanding of science to the general public. That’s why I started this blog (read more here). I also just really enjoy writing and discussing science with others. So please leave a comment, shoot me an email, or follow me on Twitter if you’d like to contact me with questions, feedback, or suggestions for future posts!