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David H. Zald

Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry
Director Interdisciplinary Neuroscience Program for Undergraduates

David Zald uses functional neuroimaging and neuropsychological techniques to examine and map the cognitive, affective and sensory functions of the orbitofrontal cortex, amygdala and the mesolimbic dopamine system. This work particularly focuses on understanding the manner in which individual differences in the functioning of these systems contributes to personality and risk for psychopathology. In recent years this work has examined the interaction of emotion and attention, and the substrates of economic decision making, particularly as it relates to motivation, the willingness to expend effort and reward processing, both in healthy indvdiduals and people with certain forms of psychopathology.   A final area of focus is the examination of the neural substrates of dimensions of psychopathology, specifically factors of psychopathology that cross the boundaries of different psychiatric disorders.

Lab Website

Representative Publications

  • Zald, D. H., & Pardo, J. V. (1997). Emotion, olfaction and the amygdala: Amygdala activation during aversive olfaction in humans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,94, 4119- 4124.
  • Zald, D. H., Lee, J. T., Fluegel, K., & Pardo, J. V. (1998). Aversive gustatory stimulation activates limbic circuits in humans. Brain. 121, 1143-1154.
  • Small, D. M., Zald, D. H., Jones-Gotman, M., Pardo, J. V., Zatorre, R., Frey, S. & Petrides, M. (1999). Human cortical gustatory areas: A review of functional neuroimaging data. Neuroreport,10, 7 -14.
  • Grove, W. G., Zald, D. H., Lebow, B., Snitz, B., & Nelson, C. (2000).  Clinical versus statistical prediction: A meta-analysis.  Psychological Assessment, 12, 19-30.  
  • Zald, D.H., Matson, D.L. & Pardo, J.V. (2002). Brain activity in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex correlates with individual differences in negative affect. Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 99, 2450-2454.
  • Zald, D.H. (2003). The human amygdala and the emotional evaluation of sensory stimuli. Brain Research Reviews, 41, 88-123.
  • Zald, D.H., Boileau, I., El Deredy, W. Gunn, R., McGlone, F., Dichter, G. and Dagher, A. (2004). Dopamine transmission in the human striatum during monetary reward tasks. Journal of Neuroscience 24, 4105-4112.
  • Zald, D.H., Cowan, R.L., Riccardi, P., Baldwin, R., Ansari, M.S, Li, R., Shelby, E.S., Smith, C.E., McHugo, M., Kessler, R.M.(2008). Midbrain dopamine autoreceptor availability is inversely associated with novelty seeking traits in humans. Journal of Neuroscience 28, 14372-14378.
  • Blackford, J.U., Buckholtz, J.W., Avery, S.N., Zald, D.H. (2010). A unique role for the human amygdala in novelty detection. Neuroimage. 50:1188-93
  • Buckholtz, J.W., Treadway, M.T., Cowan, R.L., Woodward, N.D., Benning. SD, Li, R., Ansari, M. S., Baldwin, R.M., Schwartzman, A. N., Shelby, E.S., Smith C., Cole, D., Kessler R. M., Zald, D.H. (2010) Mesolimbic Dopamine Reward System Hypersensitivity in Individuals with Psychopathic Traits, Nature Neuroscience, 13:419-21.
  • Buckholtz, J.W., Treadway, M.T., Cowan, R.L., Woodward, N.D., Li, R., Ansari, M. S., Baldwin,   R.M., Schwartzman, A. N., Shelby, E.S., Smith C., Kessler R. M., Zald, D.H.  (2010). Dopaminergic network differences in human impulsivity,  , Science, 329(5991), 532.
  • Zald, D.H., Woodward, N.D., Cowan, R.L., Riccardi, P., Baldwin, R., Ansari, M.S., Li, R., Smith, C.E., Kessler, R. M. (2010). The interrelationship of dopamine D2-like receptor binding in striatal and extrastriatal brain regions in healthy humans. Neuroimage 51, 53-62.
  • Treadway, M. & Zald, D.H. (2011). Reconsidering anhedonia in depression: Lessons from translational neuroscience.  Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews 35, 537-55.
  • Ray, R. D., & Zald, D.H. (2012). Anatomical insights into the interaction of emotion and cognition in the prefrontal cortex.  Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 36, 479-501.
  •  McHugo, M, Olatunji, B., & Zald, D. H. (2013). The emotional attentional blink: What we know so far.  Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 7,151


Zald, D.H. & Rauch, S.L. (eds.)(2006).  The Orbitofrontal Cortex. Oxford University Press: Oxford, U.K.


New York Times Magazine - Year in Ideas (2005)

Vanderbilt University Chancellor’s Award for Research (2011)  

Vanderbilt University College of Arts and Sciences Graduate Mentoring Award (2013)


Fellow, The Association of Psychological Science (2013)