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Stuart Zola, PhD

Former Director (2001-2014)
Yerkes National Primate Research Center

Retired Professor, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
Emory University School of Medicine

Former Co-Director
Emory Alzheimer's Disease Research Center

Senior Research Career Scientist
Atlanta Veterans Affairs Medical Center


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.” 

When he was director of the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, a position he held from 2001-14, Dr. Zola oversaw 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 seven 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.

Dr. Zola’s research focused 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 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 also provided knowledge about less-severe memory problems that often accompany depression, chronic stress and normal aging. 

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 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