Prof Zoltán Sarnyai is a medically-trained PhD neuroscientist with an active research program in the neurobiological mechanisms of stress and psychiatric disorders, including drug addiction, schizophrenia and depression.  After a postdoctoral training at Harvard Medical School he held an independent research position at the Rockefeller University, supported by two prestigious fellowships. Zoltán was involved in setting up a behavioural neuroscience focussed biotech company and later directed its research effort to develop new animal models for psychiatric disorders. Prior to establishing the Psychiatric Neuroscience Laboratory at JCU in 2012 he was a University Lecturer in Pharmacology and Fellow of Pembroke College at the University of Cambridge.

Zoltán has skills and experience in preclinical and clinical stress research as well as in behavioural neuroscience and animal modelling of complex human neuropsychiatric disorders. Zoltán is  Head of the Laboratory of Psychiatric Neuroscience within the Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine and the Convenor of the Community of NeuroScientists at JCU (CNS@JCU), a network of academics, doctors and other health professionals interested in broadly defined neuroscience and brain research. Zoltán's particular focus is on determining how psychosocial environment shapes the brain through hormones, immune and metabolic factors during the course of the development of neuropsychiatric disorders. He applies basic neuroscience approaches to study disadvantaged and minority populations, including Indigenous Australians, as they are disproportionally affected by mental illness. Zoltán also has a strong interest in the emerging field of nutritional psychiatry and has a number of research projects on dietary factors and mental health.

To date, Zoltán has 150 journal articles and book chapters (h-index 45 [GS]; top 5 papers in the last 5 years have a Field Weighted Citatio Index [FWCI] of 20 [global mean of the FWCI is 1.0]), and well over $6m in grant funding from USA, UK, EU and Australian funding bodies. He has supervised 7 HDR students to completion at JCU and  currently supervises 8 students at HDR level. He is Associate Editor for the journal Nutritional Neuroscience and for the Neuroenergetics, Nutrition and Brain Health Section of Frontiers of Neuroscience. Zoltan serves on the editorial board of Stress, Psychiatry International and the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Heath. He has been symposium organiser, invited speaker, discussant, moderator and panel member at international scientific conferences. Over the years Zoltán has served as consultant for pharmaceutics, biotechnology and venture capital firms and has been invited to review grant proposals worldwide. He was awarded the Curt P. Richter Prize by the International Society of Psychoneuroendocrinology for his work on neuropeptides and brain function and was a recipient of the prestigious Du Pont Warren Fellowship from Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and a Young Investigator Award from the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression (NARSAD). In 2019 Zoltan was appointed as the Lady Davis Visting Professor at the Laboratory of Psychobiology, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology for 6 months to study the role of energy metabolism in schizophrenia.

  • BM4000: Biomedical Science Honours Part 1 of 2 (Level 4; TSV & CNS)
  • BM4001: Biomedical Science Honours Part 2 of 2 (Level 4; CNS & TSV)
  • BM4010: Biomedical Science Honours (Part-Time) Part 1 of 4 (Level 4; CNS & TSV)
  • BM4011: Biomedical Science Honours (Part-Time) Part 2 of 4 (Level 4; CNS & TSV)
  • BM4012: Biomedical Science Honours (Part-Time) Part 3 of 4 (Level 4; TSV & CNS)
  • BM4013: Biomedical Science Honours (Part-Time) Part 4 of 4 (Level 4; TSV & CNS)
  • PP2150: Introduction to Medical Pharmacology (Level 2; TSV)
  • PP3251: Systemic Pathophysiology and Therapeutics (Level 3; TSV)
  • PP3252: Neuropharmacology (Level 3; TSV)
  • PP5251: Systemic Pathophysiology and Therapeutics (Level 5; TSV)
  • Psychiatric neuroscience
  • Social and biological determinants of mental health
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and social & emotional well-being
  • Stress and allostatic load
  • Behavioural neuroscience
  • Psychopharmacology
  • Metabolic psychiatry
  • Medical pharmacology
  • Neuropharmacology
  • Drug discovery
  • 2003 to 2011 - University Lecturer, University of Cambridge (Cambridge, UK)
  • 2003 to 2011 - Fellow and Director of Studies in Medicine, Pembroke College (Cambridge, UK)
  • 1999 to 2003 - Research Director and later Vice-President, PsychoGenics Inc. (Tarrytown, NY, USA)
  • 1995 to 1999 - Research Associate, The Rockefeller University (New York, NY, USA)
  • 1992 to 1995 - Research Fellow, Harvard Medical School (Boston, MA, USA)
  • 1987 to 1992 - Instructor and later Assistant Professor, Albert Szent-Gyorgyi Medical University (Szeged, Hungary)
Research Disciplines
Socio-Economic Objectives
  • 2019 - Lady Davis Visiting Professor, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, Israel
  • 2016 to 2017 - Far North Queensland Hospital Foundation Research Grant Novel treatment to eliminate the high rate of psychosis in Far North Queensland Indigenous population: A preclinical proof-of-concept study CIA
  • 2015 - Reperio Innovation Competition 1st Prize and AITHM People’s Choice Award
  • 2014 to 2015 - Publication Workshop Grant, JCU; Stress, Allostatic Load and Indigenous Health: From Cells to Community ($13,000)
  • 2014 to 2015 - CBMDT/CBTID Seed Grant, JCU; Hookworm therapy for depression; CIB ($15,000)
  • 2014 to 2015 - Comparative Genome Centre Seed Grant, JCU; Food allergy and behaviour, CIA ($5,000)
  • 2013 to 2014 - Faculty Grant, Faculty of Medicine, Health and Molecular Sciences, JCU; Stress response in Indigenous students ($18.352)
  • 2013 to 2014 - Collaboration Across Boundaries, JCU; Microlagae omega-3 fatty acids: from carbon capture to cognition; ($6,750)
  • 2009 to 2011 - Pathomechanisms and therapeutic potentials of neurodegenerative disorders, anxiety and depression. TÁMOP-4.2.2-08/1/2008-0002, Ministry of Education and Culture, Hungary – Co-Investigator; (312,082,000 HUF, ~ AU$2,017,500)
  • 1995 to 2000 - NIDA Clinical Research Center Grant Polydrug abuse in women P50 DA04059-11 - Co-Investigator, responsible for the Preclinical Behavioral Endocrinology component; (US$5 million)
  • 1996 to 1998 - NARSAD Young Investigator Award Grant; Neurobiology of chronic stress in rats: relevance to affective disorders and risk for substance abuse, sole CI (US$60,000)
  • 1995 to 1996 - Arthur Vining Davis Clinical Scholarship The Rockefeller University, New York, NY,
  • 1994 - CIBA Foundation Bursary CIBA Foundation
  • 1993 to 1994 - Ethel DuPont-Warren Fellowship Grant, Dept. of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School (US$35,000)
  • 1993 - C.P. Richter Prize International Society of Psychoneuroendocrinology
  • 1987 - István Apáthy Prize for Student Scientific Research, A. Szent-Gyorgyi Medical University, Szeged, Hungary
  • 2003 to 2011 - Fellow of Pembroke College, Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • 1993 to 1994 - Ethul DuPont-Warren Fellowship Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA
  • 2023 - Associate Editor - Mental Health; Hungarian Pediatrics
  • 2020 - Editorial Board Member, Psychiatry International
  • 2019 - Associate Editor, Neuroenergetics, Nutrition and Brain Health (specialty section of Frontiers in Neuroscience and Frontiers in Nutrition)
  • 2018 - Grant Review Panel Member (Neuroscience), National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), Australia
  • 2018 - Editorial Board Member, International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Heath
  • 2018 - Associate Editor, Nutritional Neuroscience
  • 2017 - Grant Review Panel Member (Neuroscience), National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), Australia
  • 2016 - Grant Review Panel Member (Neuroscience), National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), Australia
  • 2016 - International Behavioral Neuroscience Society; Member of the Awards and Nominations Committee
  • 2016 - Guest Editor, Special Issue on nutritional psychiatry for the journal Nutritional Neuroscience
  • 2015 - Editorial Board; Stress (Taylor & Francis)
  • 2015 - Grant Review Panel Member (Neuroscience), National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), Australia
  • 2023 to 2024 - Program Organising Committee; Metabolic Neuropsychiatry; Ernst Strungmann Forum, Frankfurt, Germany
  • 2018 to 2023 - Scientific Advisory Committee; Rebecca L Cooper Medical Research Foundation
  • 2017 to 2021 - Secretary, Biological Psychiatry Australia
  • 2016 to 2021 - International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research (ISNPR), Executive Committee
  • 2015 to 2021 - Biological Psychiatry Australia (BPA), Executive Committee
  • 2006 to 2010 - Scientific Advisory Board; SIDMAP, LLC, Los Angeles, CA, USA (biotechnology)
  • 1997 to 1999 - Scientific Adivsory Board; Athene Ventures, New York, NY, USA (biotechnology venture capital)
  • 2022 - Chief Scientific Adviser, Tropical Brain and Mind Foundation
  • 2024 - Keynote Lecture; Hungarian Pediatric Society Annual Conference, Debrecen, Hungary
  • 2024 - Opening Plenary Lecture; Hungarian Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting, Debrecen, Hungary
  • 2023 - Invited Speaker, Eccles Neuroscience Seminars, ANU, Canberra
  • 2019 - Invited Seminar; Neuroscience Seminar Series, Department of Anatomy, Physiology and Neuroscience, University of Oxford, UK
  • 2017 - Chair, Symposium on Allostatic Load in Psychiatry; International Society of Psychoneuroendocrinology Annual Meeting, Zurich, Switzerland
  • 2017 - Chair, Symposium on Ketogenic Diet in Psychiatry; International Conference on Nutritional Psychiatry, Bethesda, MD, USA
  • 2016 - Invited to contribute in the popular science magazin AUSTRALASIAN SCIENCE with an article on ketogenic diet in schizophrenia (May 2016 issue http://www.australasianscience.com.au/article/issue-may-2016/a%E2%80%88diet-calms-schizophrenic-mind.html)
  • 2015 - Invited Plenary Lecture, Hungarian Psychiatric Association Meeting
  • 2013 - Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior; Special Issue Editor: The role of oxytocin in positive affect and drug-related reward
  • 2013 - Invited Symposium Lecture, Biological Psychiatry Australia Annual Meeting
  • 2011 - Invited lecture, Psychiatry Congress Berlin (Congress of the German Association for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy; DGPPN)
  • 2003 - Rudolf Magnus Institute, Neuroscience Summer School, Utrecht, NL
  • 2002 - Inivted Lecture, Fourth World Congress on Stress, Stress and Drug Addiction symposium, Edinburgh, UK
  • 2002 - Invited Lecture, Fifth IUPHAR Satellite Conference on Serotonin, Acapulco, Mexico
  • 1993 - Curt P. Richter Award Lecture, XXIV. Congress of the Int. Soc. of Psychoneuroendocrinology, Taormina, Italy

These are the most recent publications associated with this author. To see a detailed profile of all publications stored at JCU, visit ResearchOnline@JCU. Hover over Altmetrics badges to see social impact.

Journal Articles
Book Chapters

ResearchOnline@JCU stores 112+ research outputs authored by Prof Zoltan Sarnyai from 1994 onwards.

Current Funding

Current and recent Research Funding to JCU is shown by funding source and project.

Australian Institute of Medical Scientists - Higher Degree Research Seeding Grant

Diagnostic Approaches to Mental Health - The Allostatic Load

Indicative Funding
$10,000 over 1 year
The goal of this project is to establish allostatic load index as a predictive tool in psychiatry. I will study the role allostatic load index, a measure of multisystem adaptation to changing demands and stress/trauma, in predicting the development of serious mental illness by analysing a UK longitudinal data set.
Sabine Finlay and Zoltan Sarnyai in collaboration with Donna Rudd and Brett McDermott (College of Public Health, Medical & Vet Sciences and College of Medicine & Dentistry)
Mental Health

Tropical Brain and Mind Research Foundation - Bishop Michael Putney Fellowship

Eliminating suicide among elite youth Rugby League athletes in North Queensland

Indicative Funding
$95,455 over 3 years
The overall aim of this project is to provide both "hands-on-deliverables" and "research based" information to understand risk and resilience factors and to aid the development of effective interventions to eliminate suicide among elite youth rugby league players. We will achieve this by creating an explanatory model - that can be easily understood and used by the young person, parents, educators, sporting and health professionals - of risk and protection of youth suicide in this population.
Zoltan Sarnyai and Brett McDermott (College of Public Health, Medical & Vet Sciences and College of Medicine & Dentistry)
Suicide; Stress; Sport; Mental Health; Resilience; Youth

Advisory Accreditation: I can be on your Advisory Panel as a Primary or Secondary Advisor.

These Higher Degree Research projects are either current or by students who have completed their studies within the past 5 years at JCU. Linked titles show theses available within ResearchOnline@JCU.

  • Investigating low-cost Electroencephalogram and Wearable Biomarker Measurement Devices for use in Mental Healthcare: A Multimodal Approach (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Mindfulness and Chronic Stress: An investigation of the association between mindfulness and chronic stress, and effectiveness of mindfulness-based stress reducing chronic stress in Police Officers (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Stress monitoring via a Novel decision support system based on Wearable Technologies (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)
  • Psychiatric and Metabolic Effects of ketogenic Therapy in Psychotic Disorders (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)
  • The impact of stress and trauma on refugee mental health: Building resilience through understanding stress neurobiology of refugees (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)
  • Measuring Allostatic Load - Biomarkers as Predictive Tools in Serious Mental Illness (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)
  • Nutritional Modification of Gestational Neurodevelopmental Programming: The Impact on Offspring Mental Health Related Behaviours in a Translational Mouse Model (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)
  • Pharmacogenomic Profiling of Mental Health Patients in the Philippine National Center for Mental Health (PhD , Primary Advisor)
  • Overcoming Adversity: A Biopsychosocial Perspective of Young Adulthood following Adverse Childhood Experiences (PhD , Primary Advisor)

The map shows research collaborations by institution from the past 7 years.
Note: Map points are indicative of the countries or states that institutions are associated with.

  • 5+ collaborations
  • 4 collaborations
  • 3 collaborations
  • 2 collaborations
  • 1 collaboration
  • Indicates the Tropics (Torrid Zone)

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