[Last updated: December 14, 2021]
1979 – 1994
Research Scientist at National Institutes for Mental Health (NIMH)
1994 – 1999
Director of Yerkes Primate Center at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.
1999 – 2002
Founding Director Center for Behavioral Neuroscience at Emory University
2002 – 2015
National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH), Director
Thomas Insel became the director of NIMH in 2002, and resigned in 2015.
Insel focused on serious mental illnesses. He created large repositories of DNA and funded many of the first large genotyping and sequencing efforts to identify risk genes.
Insel established autism as a major focus for NIMH and that led to an very large increase in NIH funding for autism research. Under his leadership, autism, as a developmental brain disorder, became a prototype for mental disorders, most of which also emerge during development. And during his tenure, NIMH became a leader in global mental health, working closely with the World Health Organization and the Global Alliance for Chronic Disease.
December 28, 2003
“We have no genes, no circuits, no workable animal models, so we don’t have the tools to develop new treatments,” says NIMH director Thomas Insel.
“It’s a striking contrast to where we are with the rest of medicine. We are where we were eight years ago with Alzheimer’s disease or 20 years ago with Huntington’s.”
At this point, NIH officials don’t know how much money will be available to support the initiative. But some of the work will be done at eight autism research centres, established last year by the NIH, with a total budget of $65 million over five years.
November 11, 2004
Preliminary research suggests that 15 to 20 different genes may contribute to autism susceptibility — and that different combinations of those genes may cause different variations in different people.
Finding so many genes in so many combinations will require many DNA samples from affected families, experts say. “The power is in the numbers,” says Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).
March 31, 2006
Tom Insel was a member of the Autism Speaks’ Awareness Campaign Advisory Committee
Tom Insel, M.D., director of the National Institute of Mental Health at the National Institutes of Health, opened the meeting by outlining the current landscape of autism research and highlighting the most pressing issues. He noted a growing sense of urgency that despite the fact that autism is well established as a developmental brain disorder, researchers have made little impact on unraveling the basis of the disorder to date.
Dr. Insel pointed out that the work of Autism Speaks has made major contributions to these efforts through research funding, coordination of large scale collaborations between researchers in the US and around the world, public awareness, the Autism Tissue Program and the Interactive Autism Network.
July 18, 2006
While we have known that autism is a developmental brain disorder, where, how and when the autistic brain develops abnormally has been a mystery,” said Thomas R. Insel, a physician and director of the National Institute of Mental Health .
“This new finding is important because it demonstrates that the structure of the amygdala is abnormal in autism.
Twelve years ago, 1 child in 10,000 was diagnosed with autism, now 1 in 166 children will fall somewhere on the autistic spectrum, with boys outnumbering girls four to one.
Much of the increase occurred when clinicians adopted a new and broader set of diagnostic criteria in the mid-1990s; today many children are diagnosed with autism who would previously have been labeled intellectually disabled or otherwise learning disabled.
Thomas R. Insel, M.D., director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), “I’m not convinced that this increase can be explained by differences in diagnosis. My own opinion is that there’s been a very real increase in the last ten to fifteen years.”
The ‘aha’ moment came that night, as the Slatkins and Insel attended the NIH dinner celebrating the Human Genome Project.*”
“Tom looked around he room, which was full of these brilliant, brilliant scientists,” Laura says, “He told us, ‘If you can get the greatest scientists in the world to focus on autism, you’ll get where you need to be much faster.’ We were very excited; it gave us a direction and a sense of how we could help.
May 3, 2007
Despite the expanding knowledge base on genetics, and the need for ongoing research in this area, Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, spoke of the need to look more closely at environmental factors that may be playing a role in genetic mutations.
“Genes interact with the environment to create differences in cerebral structure,” said Insel, who discussed the growing need to incorporate environmental studies into the mix. “While there’s been more traction on the genetics side, genetics alone is not explaining the rise in cases.”
Insel also commented on the fact that the conference seemed to be relatively light on environmental sessions, given its importance. “You can be sure this will show up with expanded focus,” said Insel, who mentioned that the National Institutes of Health is also launching a $40 million dollar Genes, Environment, and Health Initiative that may ultimately help researchers better understand the causes of neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism.
October 22, 2007
Today’s release of genetic and phenotypic data on autism marks a significant achievement for the autism research community,” said Thomas Insel, Ph.D., Director of the National Institute for Mental Health.
“Progress in finding the causes and cures for autism spectrum disorders rests in large part on improving the rapid access and sharing of data and resources That the Consortium is making the data available to the scientific community even before its own researchers have fully analyzed the information, demonstrates their high degree of commitment to and leadership in advancing autism research.”
November 30, 2007
The Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) met for the first time since being reconstituted as part of the Combating Autism Act of 2006 (CAA), P.L. 109-416. The CAA specifies that an Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee be established “to coordinate all efforts within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) concerning autism spectrum disorder.”
Among the attendees from HHS were Secretary Michael Leavitt and National Institutes of Health Director Elias Zerhouni, M.D. Thomas Insel, M.D, Director, National Institute of Mental Health is serving as Chairman of the IACC.
Alison Singer, Executive Vice-President, Autism Speaks was appointed by Secretary Leavitt as a Public Member of the IACC.
August 5, 2009
U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), chaired a hearing Wednesday, August 5 on the state of autism research, treatments and interventions. Among those who testified were Tom Insel, M.D., director of the National Institute of Mental Health, Autism Speaks’ Geri Dawson, Ph.D., and four parents who cited the desperate need for services in states across the country.
Acting Director of the National Center for Advancing Translation Science and Co-Director of President Obama’s BRAIN Initiative.
2015 – 2017
Tom Insel regisns as the director of the NIMH to join the Life Science division of Google X (now Verily Life Sciences).
2017 – 2019
Co-founder and President of MindStrong Health.
Tom Insel is a co-founder with Richard Klausner and Paul Dagum of the digital mental health company.
November 9, 2017
“I am pleased to take on this new role as an ASF board member because I support the mission and the results-oriented approach of this impressive organization,” said Dr. Insel.
“This is an exciting time for ASF as it continues to expand its influence and deepen its reputation as a critical funder of innovative autism research and I am thrilled to be a part of it.”
“Tom is one of the world’s leading authorities in neuroscience and has been a strong and respected voice advocating for excellence and urgency in the field of autism research,” said Alison Singer, president and co-founder of the Autism Science Foundation.
“His insight has been invaluable as a member of our SAB, and we are delighted that he will be playing an expanded role in helping to chart the course for our organization and its research agenda.”
Virginia state Senator Creigh Deeds and Dr. Tom Insel are featured in a jarring look at children with serious emotional disorders and mental illnesses in the HBO documentary – A Dangerous Son.
2019 – 2020
Special Advisor for Behavioral Health to Office of California Governor.
2020 – 2021
Insel is a co-founder and chair of Humanest.
NEST Health is building an online community empowering people to get help and give help. NEST = Network to Engage, Support, Thrive.
Co-founded NEST Health with Lara Gregorio, a global therapeutic online community for recovery.
2019 – Current
Insel is Chairman of the Board at Steinberg Institute.
Co-founded Cortical Capital, a venture fund specifically for behavioral health innovation
2021 – Current
Co-founder and Chair, Editorial Advisory Board, at MindSite News.
February 8, 2022
Insel is the author of ”Healing: Our Path from Mental Illness to Mental Health” published by Penguin Random House.
Insel also sits on the advisory boards of multiple neuroscience-behavioral health companies, as well as the Foundation for NIH.
2007 Autism Treatment & Research Hearing With Tom Insel
Autistic people have fought the inclusion of ABA in therapy for us since before Autism Speaks, and other non-Autistic-led autism organizations, started lobbying legislation to get it covered by insurances and Medicaid.
ABA is a myth originally sold to parents that it would keep their Autistic child out of an institution. Today, parents are told that with early intervention therapy their child will either be less Autistic or no longer Autistic by elementary school, and can be mainstreamed in typical education classes. ABA is very expensive to pay out of pocket. Essentially, Autism Speaks has justified the big price tag up front will offset the overall burden on resources for an Autistic’s lifetime. The recommendation for this therapy is 40 hours a week for children and toddlers.
The original study that showed the success rate of ABA to be at 50% has never been replicated. In fact, the study of ABA by United States Department of Defense was denounced as a failure. Not just once, but multiple times. Simply stated: ABA doesn’t work. In study after repeated study: ABA (conversion therapy) doesn’t work.
What more recent studies do show: Autistics who experienced ABA therapy are at high risk to develop PTSD and other lifelong trauma-related conditions. Historically, the autism organizations promoting ABA as a cure or solution have silenced Autistic advocates’ opposition. ABA is also known as gay conversion therapy.
The ‘cure’ for Autistics not born yet is the prevention of birth.
The ‘cure’ is a choice to terminate a pregnancy based on ‘autism risk.’ The cure is abortion. This is the same ‘cure’ society has for Down Syndrome.
This is eugenics 2021. Instead of killing Autistics and disabled children in gas chambers or ‘mercy killings’ like in Aktion T4, it’ll happen at the doctor’s office, quietly, one Autistic baby at a time. Different approaches yes, but still eugenics and the extinction of an entire minority group of people.
Fact: You can’t cure Autistics from being Autistic.
Fact: You can’t recover an Autistic from being Autistic.
Fact: You can groom an Autistic to mask and hide their traits. Somewhat. … however, this comes at the expense of the Autistic child, promotes Autistic Burnout (this should not be confused with typical burnout, Autistic Burnout can kill Autistics), and places the Autistic child at high risk for PTSD and other lifelong trauma-related conditions.
[Note: Autism is NOT a disease, but a neurodevelopmental difference and disability.]
Fact: Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism.