Tom Insel on Tech & Wellbeing

The longest running director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and now at Verily, Google’s Life Sciences division, Thomas R. Insel, MD has spent the last several decades furthering research and leadership in neuroscience and mental health.  In a recent interview, we had the opportunity to speak with him about the potential for technology to make positive change in this space.

For more on the topic, see our interview series: "Perspectives on Tech & Wellbeing" where we speak with leaders in psychology, health and computing about how we could better design technology to support wellbeing.




Insel's tenure at NIMH was distinguished by groundbreaking findings in the areas of practical clinical trials, autism research, and the role of genetics in mental illnesses. Prior to his appointment as NIMH Director in the Fall 2002, Dr. Insel was Professor of Psychiatry at Emory University. There, he was founding director of the Center for Behavioral Neuroscience, one of the largest science and technology centers funded by the National Science Foundation and, concurrently, director of an NIH-funded Center for Autism Research.

From 1994 to 1999, he was Director of the Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center in Atlanta. While at Emory, Insel continued the line of research he had initiated at NIMH studying the neurobiology of complex social behaviors. He has published over 250 scientific articles and four books, including the Neurobiology of Parental Care (with Michael Numan) in 2003.

Dr. Insel has served on numerous academic, scientific, and professional committees and boards. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine, a fellow of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, and is a recipient of several awards including the Outstanding Service Award from the U.S. Public Health Service. Dr. Insel graduated from the combined B.A.-M.D. program at Boston University in 1974. He did his internship at Berkshire Medical Center, Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and his residency at the Langley Porter Neuropsychiatric Institute at the University of California, San Francisco.