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Stuart Zola, PhD

Yerkes Research Center

Professor, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
Emory University School of Medicine

Emory Alzheimer's Disease Research Center

Senior Research Career Scientist
Atlanta Veterans Affairs Medical Center

Phone: 404-727-7707

Fax: 404-727-0623


One of the nation’s leading neuroscientists, Stuart Zola, PhD, has contributed valuable insights into how the brain organizes memory and how this process relates to memory problems, such as amnesia. In 2009, the American Association for the Advancement of Science named him a fellow for his “distinguished contributions in neuroscience, including the delineation of the brain's memory system, and for communicating the importance and excitement of science to the lay public.” Dr. Zola is a leader in communicating science and research to the general public. The Winter 2012 issue of Neuroscience Quarterly, published by the Society for Neuroscience, features a Q&A with Dr. Zola on this topic.

As the director of the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, a position he began in 2001, Dr. Zola oversees essential basic science and translational research to advance scientific understanding and to improve the health and well-being of humans and animals. A part of the Woodruff Health Sciences Center of Emory University and one of only eight national primate research centers, the Yerkes National Primate Research Center provides leadership, training and resources to foster scientific creativity, collaboration and discoveries. Yerkes-based research is grounded in scientific integrity, expert knowledge, respect for colleagues, an open exchange of ideas and compassionate, quality animal care.

Within the fields of behavioral neuroscience and psychiatric disorders, developmental and cognitive neuroscience, microbiology and immunology, neurologic disease, neuropharmacology and pathology, the center's research programs are seeking ways to: develop vaccines for infectious and noninfectious diseases, such as AIDS and Alzheimer's Disease; treat cocaine addiction; interpret brain activity through imaging; increase understanding of progressive illnesses, such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's; unlock the secrets of memory; determine behavioral effects of hormone replacement therapy; address vision disorders; and advance knowledge about the evolutionary links between biology and behavior.

Dr. Zola’s own research focuses on memory formation, consolidation and retrieval. He is perhaps best known for developing an animal model of human amnesia in nonhuman primates that conclusively identified brain structures critical to memory function. Dr. Zola’s research has contributed significant insights into the memory loss in humans that results from head trauma and characterizes progressive diseases, such as mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and Alzheimer’s. His research has also provided knowledge about less-severe memory problems that often accompany depression, chronic stress and normal aging. Two of his peer-reviewed, published research papers have each received more than 1,000 citations by other authors, signifying the high impact scholarship of Dr. Zola's research. Currently, Dr. Zola is studying patients who have MCI as a way to identify those who later may be affected by Alzheimer’s Disease. He expects to publish findings of this research this year.  

Before joining the Yerkes Research Center in 2001, Dr. Zola was a professor in the departments of psychiatry and neurosciences at the University of California, San Diego. He also held the position of research career scientist at the Veterans Affairs (VA) Healthcare System in San Diego. Upon his move to Atlanta, Dr. Zola began working with the Atlanta VA Medical Center. In 2003 and again in 2009, the VA named him a senior research career scientist, the highest honor the VA bestows, and in 2004, Dr. Zola received the Henry M. Middleton Research Excellence Award of Atlanta, which the VA presents to the researcher whose body of work has had the greatest impact on the Atlanta VA Medical Center during the year.

Dr. Zola is a member of several scientific and professional societies, including the Society for Neuroscience and the National Association for Biomedical Research. He serves on the editorial advisory boards of the journals Cognitive Brain Research and Behavioral and Neural Biology, and is serving as a member of the search committee for the new editor of the Journal of Comparative Psychology. In addition, he is a member of the joint American Association for the Advancement of Science and American Bar Association National Conference of Lawyers and Scientists. Dr. Zola received his bachelor of arts degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1965 and his master’s (1969) and doctoral (1973) degrees in neuroscience from Northeastern University in Boston.


View publications on PubMed