Interview with Deric Bownds, Ph.D.

Psychology Blog Author

Emeritus Professor – University of Wisconsin, Author of Deric’s MindBlog

About Dr. Bownds: Dr. Deric Bownds is Emeritus Professor of Molecular Biology and Zoology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. From 1964 until 1996 his research laboratory made fundamental contributions to understanding how light is changed into a nerve signal in our eyes. He established the first cellular neurobiology course at the University of Wisconsin in 1970 and then moved on to develop a course based on parallel studies of mind and behavior which generated his book The Biology of Mind: Origins and Structures of Mind Brain, and Consciousness. He retired from 33 years of university service in 2001, and since 2006 has published a blog (Deric’s MindBlog) reporting new ideas and work on mind, brain, and behavior. He is an accomplished classical pianist who has offered public recitals over the past 40 years.

[] Why did you originally create a blog about biology, our mind, brain and behavior?

[Deric Bownds, Ph.D.] The proximate cause of Deric’s MindBlog was simply reading a New York Times article in early 2006 describing the increasing popularity of a new internet platform called Blogger. Since my “Biology of Mind” book in 1999 and my retirement from active research and teaching in 2001, I had been lecturing and writing, putting essays and web lectures on my webpage at The blogger platform seemed a nice way to reach a larger number of people with ideas derived from my current readings on the biology of behavior.

[] What do you hope to achieve by maintaining Deric’s MindBlog?  

[Deric Bownds, Ph.D.] The function of MindBlog is simply to share new ideas I find interesting. It would seem a pity to keep them to myself.

[] As the Emeritus Professor of Molecular Biology and Zoology at the University of Wisconsin, can you share with us on how your past research has influenced your creation of Deric’s MindBlog?

[Deric Bownds, Ph.D.] My interest in the biology of mind grew alongside my core laboratory work on the chemistry of how light is changed into a nerve signal in our eyes. This was work at the level of cells and molecules, and I also wanted to be thinking about systems on many nerve cells, brains, and behaviors. I founded the first Neurobiology course (on cells and molecules) with Julius Adler in 1969-70, my systems thinking resulted in the Biology of Mind interdisciplinary course that started in the early 1990s.  

[] In your most recent post, “A chemical link between early life stress and adult schizophrenia” you highlight the impact of early life stress (ELS) as a risk factor for schizophrenia. How do you see this research promoting early intervention for children?

[Deric Bownds, Ph.D.] MindBlog has a large number of posts on this theme: that early life stress can virtually lock in place maladaptive stress chemistry and behaviors that persist into adulthood. The science is clear; what is not present is the political will required to spend the money that would be required to improve the lives of children in dysfunctional, especially poor, families.

[] The website that your blog lives on also offers resources on “Mind Lectures and Writings.” Can you tell us more about why you provide these to your readers?

[Deric Bownds, Ph.D.] These longer pieces of writing that are also delivered as lectures to an audience provide more depth and scope than MindBlog posts, which usually are short pieces on more limited topics.

Thank you, Dr. Bownds. Learn more about Deric’s MindBlog on our Psychology Blogs list.

Last updated: April 2020