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Larry Young, PhD

Division Chief
Behavioral Neuroscience and Psychiatric Disorders

William P. Timmie Professor
Department of Psychiatry

Phone: 404-727-8272


Lab Web Site:


Larry Young, PhD, Chief of the Yerkes Division of Behavioral Neuroscience and Psychiatric Disorders, studied biochemistry at the University of Georgia. After becoming excited about the possibility of making new discoveries for understanding the complexities of life at the molecular level, he decided to dedicate his career to understanding how the brain functions to generate complex behaviors in animals. After earning his bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from the University of Georgia, Dr. Young completed his graduate training in zoology and received his doctorate from the University of Texas. Dr. Young then moved to Emory University for his postdoctoral training and was promoted to faculty in the Department of Psychiatry, Emory School of Medicine, in 1996.

Dr. Young's research focuses on understanding the genetic and neurobiological mechanisms underlying complex social behaviors, including social bonding and social attachments. He is most well known for his research examining the mechanisms underlying pair bond formation in monogamous prairie voles. His studies have highlighted the roles of oxytocin and vasopressin in regulating social behavior. This work has important implications for psychiatric disorders characterized by disruption in social cognition, including autism spectrum disorder and schizophrenia. Dr. Young’s lab is now using this basic understanding of social cognition to identify novel drugs to treat social deficits in psychiatric disorders.

Dr. Young has established three centers while at Yerkes and Emory:

  • He is the Director of the Center for Translational Social Neuroscience (CTSN) at Emory. CTSN investigators at Yerkes, Emory School of Medicine, Emory College and the Marcus Autism Center are seeking to understand the basic neurobiology and genetics of social behavior, including social bonding, cooperation and social reciprocity. The researchers are also focused on psychiatric disorders characterized by impaired social function, including autism spectrum disorders and schizophrenia. Center researchers are striving not only to better understand the social brain, but also to develop new treatment strategies for improving social functioning in autism and schizophrenia.
  • Dr. Young is also the Principal Investigator and Director of the NIH-funded Silvio O. Conte Center at Emory; the grant was just renewed for $12.7 million and five years. The goal of the Conte Center research during the next five years is to use cutting-edge technologies, including CRISPR gene editing and optogenetics, in research with rodents and nonhuman primates to understand more precisely the way oxytocin acts in the brain, including its role in neural communication and social functioning. The Emory Conte Center renewal coincides with Young’s establishment of a third center in Japan. 
  • Most recently, Dr. Young established the Center for Social Neural Networks at the University of Tsukuba in Japan. Under Dr. Young's leadership, the center will foster international collaborations to understand the social brain in even greater detail. The new center significantly expands the reach of Young’s leadership and impact in the field of social neuroscience into Asia and involves faculty based at institutions across Japan. Young will also mentor a research team at the University of Tsukuba exploring the precise brain circuits of social functioning using genetically engineered mice.

Dr. Young is past president of the international Society for Social Neuroscience (S4SN), which promotes the integration of research on social neuroscience in animal models with human research.

In 2014, Dr. Young was inducted as a Fellow in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2012, he received the Daniel H. Efron award for Excellence in Research in Neuropsychopharmacology by the American College of Neuropshchopharmacology.

In summer 2012, Dr. Young spent two weeks in Dharamsala, India, teaching neuroscience to Tibetan monks as part of the Robert A. Paul Emory-Tibet Science Initiative. 

Dr. Young's first book, The Chemistry Between Us: Love, Sex, and the Science of Attraction, presents a unified theory of how love, sex and human social bonding is created in our brains, how that creation drives our behavior, and how these mechanisms fit into social, historical and political contexts. 

Dr. Young is a frequent speaker and often interviewed by media worldwide. Recent interviews include:

Science can cure heartbreak in voles, but what about in humans? The Pulse, WHYY (PBS)
Love in a Nasal Spray? The Science Show, ABC Radio, Australia 
Vole love and Fidelity, BBC
Oxytocin, Love and Social Awareness, SmartDrugSmarts podcast 

Publication Citations on Google Scholar


View publications on PubMed