Peter Sterling, Ph.D

faculty photo
Professor of Neuroscience
Department: Neuroscience

Contact information
Finca Tangara, Palmira Abajo, Chiriqui Province, Panamá (November-April)

24 High Point Drive (May-October)
Amherst, MA 00102
. (Biology)
Cornell University, 1961.
. (Medicine)
New York University School of Medicine, 1962.
Ph.D. (Neuroscience)
Western Reserve University , 1966.
Permanent link
> Perelman School of Medicine   > Faculty   > Details

Description of Research Expertise

My broad goal has been to learn how the brain is designed – its functional architecture. My research spanned the full range of scales, from nanoscopic (synaptic vesicles), to microscopic (neural circuits), to macroscopic (regional neuroanatomy and behavior). My lab studies focused on retinal structure and function (Sterling, 2013), but my theoretical interests extended to basic issues of physiological regulation and behavior, leading to the concept of allostasis (Sterling, 2004, 2011). The two lines were integrated in a book written with Prof. Simon Laughlin, Principles of Neural Design (2015) and another, What is Health? Allostasis and the Evolution of Human Design (2020). Investigations continue in a Massachusetts garden and on a farm in western Panamá.

Selected Publications

Sterling P, Platt ML: Why Deaths of Despair Are Increasing in the US and Not Other Industrial Nations—Insights From Neuroscience and Anthropology. JAMA Psychiatry 79(4): 368-374, 2022.

Sterling P.: Why I joined the Freedom Rides. Curr Biol 31: R766-R770, Jun 2021.

Sterling P: Attention! One Morning with a Roving Mind. Mad in America 2021 Notes:

Sterling P: What is health? allostasis and the evolution of human design. MIT Press 2020 Notes: ¿Qué es la salud? Cecropia Press 2022.

Schulkin J, Sterling P.: Allostasis: a brain-centered, predictive mode of physiological regulation. Trends in Neuroscience October 2019.

Sterling P: Predictive regulation and human design. eLife 7, Jun 2018.

Sterling P: Why We Consume: Neural Design and Sustainability. Great Transition Initiative. Great Transition Initiative Website 2016.

Sterling P: Why we abandon a life of small pleasures. Great Transition Initiative Website 2016.

Sterling P, Laughlin, Simon. : Principles of Neural Design. MIT Press. May 2015.

Sterling P: Homeostasis vs. Allostasis: Implications for brain function and mental disorders. JAMA Psychiatry 71(10): 1192-3, 2014.

back to top
Last updated: 06/21/2022
The Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania