January 13, 2003

Zola to speak at Jan. 16 Great Teachers Lecture

By Lillian Kim

Having spent much of his scientific career studying the brains of human patients and nonhuman primates, neuroscientist and Yerkes Primate Research Center Director Stuart Zola has achieved remarkable insights into one of the brain’s most essential but elusive functions: memory.

As part of the Great Teachers Lecture Series, Zola will use his Jan. 16 lecture to explain how memory is formed, stored and retrieved, and how memory function can be damaged or lost due to injury or illness. He also will discuss different types of memory, the effects of growth and aging on cognitive development and decline, and exciting new research programs aimed at discovering more about how memory problems occur and how they might be treated or prevented.

According to Zola, humans’ memories are more fluid and malleable than we may realize, and false memories can seem astonishingly real. But it is actually the loss of the ability to remember, known as amnesia, that has helped scientists unlock the secrets of memory.

While at the University of California-San Diego, Zola and his colleagues developed an animal model of human amnesia that conclusively identified a group of interconnected brain structures critical to memory function. His research has contributed significantly to the understanding of memory loss in humans resulting from head trauma and that which characterizes progressive diseases such as Alzheimer’s, as well as less severe memory problems that often accompany depression, chronic stress and normal aging.

Yerkes is one of eight designated National Primate Research Centers that are supported by the National Institutes of Health. As Yerkes director, Zola oversees broadly based research programs, funded by $40.2 million in grants, that address health issues such as AIDS, malaria and other infectious diseases, cocaine addiction, cardiovascular disease, childhood visual deficits, organ transplantation, and cognitive development and decline.

Yerkes scientists also study social behavior in nonhuman primates. With more than 3,000 nonhuman primates and 2,500 rodents, the center serves as a vital resource for
collaborative scientists at Emory and at other research institutions throughout the United States and the world.

Before joining Emory in September 2001, Zola was a professor in the departments of psychiatry and neurosciences at UC-San Diego and also held the position of research career scientist at San Diego’s Veterans Administration Medical Center. He is a member of several scientific and professional societies, including the Society for Neuroscience and the National Association for Biomedical Research, and serves on the editorial advisory boards of the journals Cognitive Brain Research and Behavioral and Neural Biology.

The lecture, which is free and open to the public, will be held Thursday, Jan. 16, at
7:30 p.m. in Miller-Ward Alumni House. For more information, call 404-727-6000.






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