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David H. Zald

Adjoint Professor of Psychology
Director of the Affective Neuroscience Laboratory

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 individuals 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.

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., 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.
  • 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.
  • Lahey, B.B., Zald, D.H., Hakes, J.K, Krueger, R.F., Rathouz, P.J.  (2014). Patterns of heterotypic continuity associated with the cross-sectional correlational structure of prevalent mental disorders in adults. JAMA Psychiatry 71, 989-996.
  • Zald, D.H., Ray, K.L., McHugo, M., Glahn, D., Eickhoff, S.D., Laird, A.R. (2014). Meta-analytic connectivity modeling reveals differential functional connectivity of the medial and lateral orbitofrontal cortex.  Cerebral Cortex.  24, 232-248.   
  • Smith, C.T., Dang, L.C., Cowan, R.L., Kessler, R.M., Zald. D.H. (2016). Variability in paralimbic dopamine signaling correlates with subjective responses to d-amphetamine.  Neuropharmacology, 108, 394-402.   
  • Zald, D.H. & Treadway, M.T. (2017).  Reward processing, neuroeconomics and psychopathology. Invited review for Annual Review of Clinical Psychology. 13, 471-495
  • Lahey, B.B., Krueger, R.F., Rathouz, P.J., Waldman, I.D., Zald, D.H. (2017). A hierarchical causal taxonomy of psychopathology across the life span. Psychological Bulletin. 143, 142-186.


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)