Mark Blumberg is F. Wendell Miller Professor at the University of Iowa and chair of the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. Over the course of his career, he has published 140 scientific articles and chapters in diverse species and on a wide variety of topics, including animal behavior, sleep, temperature regulation, sensorimotor development, instinct, animal mind, ultrasonic vocalizations, and communication. In addition to writing research articles, Blumberg has authored and edited several books on such topics as temperature regulation, instinct, and developmental anomalies.
After receiving his doctorate from the University of Chicago (with Howard Moltz) and completing his postdoctoral training at Indiana University (with Jeff Alberts), Blumberg joined the faculty at the University of Iowa in 1992. In 1997, he was honored with an APA Distinguished Scientific Early Career Award for his early research on behavioral and physiological development. In 2002, he published his first book, Body Heat: Temperature and Life on Earth, which discusses thermoregulation in humans and other animals and how it affects behavior and development. Three years later, in 2005, he published his second book, Basic Instinct: The Genesis of Behavior, which delves into the origins of so-called innate behaviors, reframing them as emerging from complex biological and environmental cascades rather than as products of hardwiring or genetic instruction. This theme is a central tenet of Developmental Systems Theory, of which Blumberg is a proponent.
In 2008, Blumberg was named the editor-in-chief of Behavioral Neuroscience, a position he held for six years. The following year, he published his third book, Freaks of Nature: What Anomalies Tell Us About Development and Evolution, through Oxford University Press. The book discusses elements of behavioral plasticity and the developing animal’s ability to adapt to the body it has, rather than the body it was “supposed” to have. Also in 2009, Blumberg co-edited, with John Freeman and Scott Robinson, The Oxford Handbook of Developmental Behavioral Neuroscience. During this time, he also served as president of the International Society for Developmental Psychobiology and was named the F. Wendell Miller Professor at the University of Iowa.
Blumberg has been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health for over 25 years and, in 2014, received a MERIT Award for his research on sleep and its role in neural development. Since the 1990s, Blumberg has been investigating muscle twitches during REM sleep and their role in the development of the sensorimotor system. Studies from his lab show that sensory feedback from twitching limbs drive abundant information throughout the sensorimotor system, effectively teaching the brain about its particular body. Blumberg’s research on the subject was highlighted in an episode of the 2020 Netflix series, Babies.