Andres Bendesky, M.D., Ph.D.

Andres Bendesky, M.D., Ph.D.

Research Interest

There are profound differences in behavior among individuals of a species and across species. Much effort has been devoted to the observation and theory of behavioral variation, but the molecular, genetic, and neurobiological mechanisms that generate and maintain such diversity are largely unknown. My lab studies the mechanisms of behavioral variation from genetic and neurobiological angles—by identifying specific genes involved and how they impact the brain, and by characterizing functional variation in neuronal circuits. We then analyze the common themes that emerge to describe the evolution of behavior.

Work in my lab focuses primarily on deer mice (genus Peromyscus) and on Siamese fighting fish (Betta splendens). Deer mice are an excellent system to study natural variation in behavior because (1) there is a large diversity of behavior within and among species and many of these species are interfertile, permitting forward genetic analyses; (2) Peromyscus is diverged from laboratory mice and rats, providing an opportunity to discover biological features that differ from traditional model species; nonetheless, many tools developed for laboratory mice and rats also work in Peromyscus; and (3) Peromyscus mice can breed in the laboratory in the same conditions as laboratory mice, allowing us to perform controlled experiments. Siamese fighting fish have been selectively bred for fighting for over 1,000 years, which has made them exquisitely aggressive. We study the neurobiological bases of their aggressive behavior and how evolution has shaped their genes, brains and behavior.

  • Postdoc, Harvard University
  • PhD, Rockefeller University
  • MD, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM)
  • Kwon YM, Vranken N, Hoge C, Lichak MR, Francis KX, Camacho-Garcia J, Bista I, Wood J, McCarthy S, Chow W, Tan HH, Howe K, Bandara S, von Lintig J, Rüber L, Durbin R, Svardal H, Bendesky A. bioRxiv 2021. doi: 10.1101/2021.04.29.442030.
  •       Media coverage:     Annie Roth. The 1,000-year secret that made betta fish beautiful. New York Times (front page). May 14, 2021.
  •                                     Sarah Zhang. The surprise hiding in the DNA of pet fish. The Atlantic. May 14, 2021
  • Wu A*, Buchanan EK*… Bendesky A… Cunningham J, Paninski L. Deep Graph Pose: a semi-supervised deep graphical model for improved animal pose tracking. NeurIPS. 2020.
  • Niepoth N, Bendesky A. How natural genetic variation shapes behavior. Annual Reviews of Genomics and Human Genetics. 2020;21:437-463.
  • Kelley DB, Ballag IH, Barkan CL, Bendesky A, et al. Coordinating and evolving neural circuits for vocal communication. Journal of Neuroscience. 2020;40:22-36.
  • Bendesky A, Kwon, YM, Lassance JM, Lewarch CL, Yao S, Peterson BK, He MX, Dulac C, Hoekstra HE. The genetic basis of parental care evolution in monogamous mice. Nature. 2017;544:434-439.

News and Views:

  • Phelps SM. Animal behaviour: How to build a better dad. Nature. 2017;544:418-419.
  • Snyder-Mackler M, Tung J. Vasopressin and the Neurogenetics of Parental Care. Neuron. 2017;95:9-11.
  • Hager R. The genes that make a good parent. Trends in Genetics. 2017; In press.


  • Matheson S. Sorting out complex thoughts and messy emotions. Cell. 2017;169:1157.

Media coverage:

  • Carl Zimmer. Why are some mice (and people) monogamous? A study points to genes. New York Times. April 19, 2017.
  • Andrea Marks. The mouse parent trap. Scientific American. July 2017.
  • Bendesky A, Pitts J, Rockman MV, Chen WC, Tan MW, Kruglyak L, Bargmann CI. Long-range regulatory polymorphisms affecting a GABA receptor constitute a quantitative trait locus (QTL) for social behavior in Caenorhabditis elegansPLoS Genet. 2012;8:e1003157.
  • Bendesky A, Bargmann CI. Genetic contributions to behavioural variation at the gene-environment interface. Nature Reviews Genetics. 2011.;12:48-56.
  • Bendesky A, Tsunozaki M, Rockman MV, Kruglyak L, and Bargmann CI. Catecholamine receptor polymorphisms affect decision-making in C. elegansNature. 2011;472:313-318.
  • For a complete list of publications, please visit
  • Social Behavior 
  • Mechanisms of Behavioral Diversity 
  • Neuroethology 
  • Evolution of Brain and Behavior