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 close to 150 published journal articles and book chapters (h-index 36; top 3 papers in the last 5 years have a relative citation ratio [RCR] of 9.5 [cited 9.5 times more often than discipline average, top 2% of all NIH-USA funded research in the discipline), and well over $6m in grant funding from USA, UK, EU and Australian funding bodies. He has supervised 5 HDR students to completion at JCU and  currently supervises 4 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.

  • MD2011: Integrated Human System Pathophysiology Part 1 of 2 (Level 2; TSV)
  • MD2012: Integrated Human System Pathophysiology Part 2 of 2 (Level 2; TSV)
  • PC4101: Endocrine and Reproductive Pharmacy (Level 4; TSV)
  • PC4401: Integrated Therapeutics 4 (Level 4; TSV)
  • 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
  • • 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
  • 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 - CBMDT/CBTID Seed Grant, JCU; Hookworm therapy for depression; CIB ($15,000)
  • 2014 to 2015 - Publication Workshop Grant, JCU; Stress, Allostatic Load and Indigenous Health: From Cells to Community ($13,000)
  • 2014 to 2015 - Comparative Genome Centre Seed Grant, JCU; Food allergy and behaviour, CIA ($5,000)
  • 2013 to 2014 - Collaboration Across Boundaries, JCU; Microlagae omega-3 fatty acids: from carbon capture to cognition; ($6,750)
  • 2013 to 2014 - Faculty Grant, Faculty of Medicine, Health and Molecular Sciences, JCU; Stress response in Indigenous students ($18.352)
  • 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
  • 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 - Scientific Advisory Committee; Rebecca L Cooper Medical Research Foundation
  • 2018 - Associate Editor, Nutritional Neuroscience
  • 2017 - 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 - Journal of Metabolic Therapeutics (inaugural editorial board)
  • 2016 - International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research (ISNPR), Executive Committee
  • 2016 - Guest Editor, Special Issue on nutritional psychiatry for the journal Nutritional Neuroscience
  • 2016 - Grant Review Panel Member (Neuroscience), National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), Australia
  • 2015 - Biological Psychiatry Australia (BPA), Executive Committee
  • 2015 - Editorial Board; Stress (Taylor & Francis)
  • 2015 - Grant Review Panel Member (Neuroscience), National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), Australia
  • 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)
  • 2017 - Secretary, Biological Psychiatry Australia
  • 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 - Invited Symposium Lecture, Biological Psychiatry Australia Annual Meeting
  • 2013 - Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior; Special Issue Editor: The role of oxytocin in positive affect and drug-related reward
  • 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 - Invited Lecture, Fifth IUPHAR Satellite Conference on Serotonin, Acapulco, Mexico
  • 2002 - Inivted Lecture, Fourth World Congress on Stress, Stress and Drug Addiction symposium, Edinburgh, UK
  • 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 92+ 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

Morris Animal Foundation - Established Investigator Grant

A Genetic Management Toolkit: Developing Semen freezing and Artificial Insemination in the African Wild Dog (Lycaon pictus)

Indicative Funding
$61,741 over 4 years (administered by IBREAM)
The African wild dog is an endangered exotic canid with an estimated 6,600 animals remaining in highly fragmented populations in the wild. Artificial Insemination (AI) combined with sperm freezing is widely regarded as one of the most powerful forms of assisted breeding technologies for the preservation, distribution and improvement of animal genetics, and offers tremendous potential for the genetic management of this socially complex species. Using captive African wild dogs, this project will test different sperm freezing protocols and develop AI techniques, so as to establish a high quality semen bank for the species. The effect of dog appeasing pheromones as an alernative method to mitigate stress and intra-pack aggression in captivity will also be validated.
Damien Paris, Zoltan Sarnyai and Femke Van den Berghe in collaboration with Monica Paris and Michael Briggs (College of Public Health, Medical & Vet Sciences and African Predator Conservation Research Organization (USA))
African wild dog; Artificial Insemination; Sperm freezing; Dominance; Reproductive supression; Pheromones

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

Indicative Funding
$2,968 over 1 year
The burden of psychosis in the Indigenous population of FNQ/Cape York is very high. We propose a completely novel treatment that will likely influence the full spectrum of psychosis symptoms without causing the deleterious metabolic side-effects of currently used antipsychotic treatment. The main aim of this project is to provide proof-of-concept for the efficacy of a novel treatment, ketone ester (KE) administration, in a validated preclinical animal model for psychosis. Specifically, we aim to determine the effects of orally administered KE on the psychosis-like behavioural changes induced by the NMDA receptor antagonist MK-801 (dizocilpine) in mice. These well-characterised behavioural changes include psychomotor hyperactivity, stereotyped behaviour, abnormal social interaction, deficits is working memory and impaired information processing (prepulse inhibition of startle).
Zoltan Sarnyai (College of Public Health and Medical & Vet Sciences)
Mouse (Mus musculus); Psychosis; Energy metabolism; Ketone ester

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.

  • Person centered learning: promoting student engagement using an individualised approach to education (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • The Efficacy of the DeStress for Success Education program on Attenuating Depressive Symptomatology in Adolescents (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Nutritional Modification of Gestational Neurodevelopmental Programming: The Impact on Offspring Mental Health Related Behaviours in a Translational Mouse Model (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)
  • Longitudinal Study on Allostatic Load Biomarkers and its Impact on Mental Illness/Health (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)
  • Psychiatric and Metabolic Effects of ketogenic Therapy in Psychotic Disorders (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)
  • Measuring Allostatic Load - Biomarkers as Predictive Tools in Serious Mental Illness (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)

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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