News Release: People

Feb. 12,  2010

VA Reappoints Yerkes Director Zola As Senior Research Career Scientist

The appointment is the highest honor the VA bestows on a PhD Scientist

News Article ImageStuart Zola, PhD

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has renewed the appointment of Yerkes National Primate Research Center Director Stuart Zola, PhD, as senior research career scientist (SRCS). The seven-year appointment, the highest honor the VA bestows on a PhD scientist, provides continuing support for Dr. Zola's memory and amnesia research at the Atlanta VA Medical Center (VAMC).

"Dr. Zola solidifies our relationship with the Yerkes Research Center and Emory University," says Antonio J. Laracuente, director of research operations at the Atlanta VAMC.  "His SRCS award, through 2017, is an example of the high caliber of scientist he represents and speaks to his research accomplishments. The SRCS award is given only to the best scientists in the VA system, and we at the VA are fortunate to have such an outstanding scholar as Dr. Zola with accomplishments in a high-priority clinically significant area of research for the VA, loss of memory associated with brain injury, Alzheimer's disease and normal aging," Laracuente continues.

Entry to becoming a SRCS is through the VA's research career scientist (RCS) program, which was developed to support established, non-clinical, independent investigators with up to seven years of renewable funding. Each SRCS is selected through a peer-review process that considers productivity with continual independent research support as well as current project support from the VA. Each SRCS is also expected to have a successful record as a principal investigator on merit-reviewed projects funded by the VA or other national agencies, a strong publications record, professional recognition and involvement, interaction with clinicians and/or managers in support of VA patient care, and an active role in teaching and mentoring other scientists. Dr. Zola began working with the VA in 1993 when he was named a RCS. His first SRCS appointment was in 2003.

As one of the world's leading neuroscientists, Dr. Zola is widely regarded for his valuable insights into how the brain organizes memory and how this relates to memory problems such as amnesia. He is also well known for effectively communicating science and research to the public.

Dr. Zola spent most of his research career at the University of California, San Diego, where he focused on investigating memory formation, consolidation and retrieval. He is perhaps best known for developing an animal model of human amnesia that conclusively identified brain structures that play important roles in memory function. The findings from Dr. Zola's animal-based research have been linked to concurrent research on human amnesia, through active collaboration with other researchers as well as his own work with human amnesic patients. This research has tremendous significance for gaining insight into the loss of memory that results from head trauma and characterizes progressive diseases such as Alzheimer's, as well as the memory problems that often accompany depression, chronic stress and normal aging.

In addition to his positions at Yerkes and the VA, Dr. Zola holds a concurrent appointment as professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Emory University School of Medicine, and he serves as co-director of the Emory Alzheimer's Disease Research Center.

 For eight decades, the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University, has been dedicated to conducting essential basic science and translational research to advance scientific understanding and to improve the health and well-being of humans and nonhuman primates. Today, the center, as one of only eight National-Institutes of Health-funded national primate research centers, 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 microbiology, immunology and neuroscience, 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; and advance knowledge about the evolutionary links between biology and behavior.

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