Dr Zoe Donaldson

Dr Z Donaldson

2009 present, Robert Wood Johnson Health and Society Scholar Post-Doctoral Researcher; Columbia University, Advisors: Dr. Frances Champagne and Dr. Rene Hen

2009, Ph.D. in Neuroscience, Howard Hughes Predoctoral Fellow, Emory University; Thesis: Exploring the neurogenetics of sociality: Establishing models to asses the role of V1a receptor diversity in behavior; Advisor: Dr. Larry Young

2002, B.S. Biology, Summa Cum Laude, University of California Los Angeles

Research Overview

I am broadly interested in how genetic and experiential variation guide individual differences. A combination of genetic predisposition and biologically encoded experience contributes to diversity in personality, behavior, and likelihood to develop diseases, including mental health disorders. In order to better understand the contributions of these two sources of biological risk, I employ rodent models that are genetically and behaviorally tractable.

Currently, I am investigating how variation in regulatory DNA sequences directly contributes to differences in social behavior using lines of mice in which I have genetically altered the V1a receptor gene. I hypothesize that variation in regions peripheral to the coding portion of the gene influence where and how much V1a receptor is expressed in the brain. This, in turn, may influence individual and species diversity in vasopressin-mediated social behaviors. Thus, these mice represent and ideal model for exploring how differences in DNA sequence can influence behavior.

In addition, I also plan to explore how early social experience may impact individual differences in behavior and specifically explore its role in determining risk for developing mental health disorders. This work will take advantage of inbred mouse strains with identical genetic backgrounds, enabling me to dissociate the effects of genetic predisposition and social exposure.


Donaldson ZR, Piel DA, Santos TL, Richardson-Jones J, Leonardo ED, Beck SG, Champagne FA, Hen R (in press) Developmental Effects of Serotonin 1A Autoreceptors on Anxiety and Social behavior. Neuropsychopharmacology

Donaldson, Z. R., S. H. Yang, A. W. S. Chan, and L. J. Young. Production of germline transgenic prairie voles (Microtus ochragaster) using lentiviral vectors. Biology of Reproduction. published ahead of print July 29, 2009, doi:10.1095/biolreprod.109.077529.

Donaldson, Z.R., L.J. Young (2008) Oxytocin, vasopressin, and the neurogenetics of sociality. Science. (322) 5903:900-904.

Donaldson, Z.R., F.A. Kondrashov, A. Putnam, Y. Bai, T.L. Stoinski, E.A.D. Hammock, and L.J. Young (2008) Evolution of a behavior-linked microsatellite-containing element in the 5' flanking region of the primate AVPR1A gene. BMC Evolutionary Biology. 8: 180 (23Jun2008).

Donaldson, Z.R. and L.J. Young (2008) "The Neurobiology of Affiliation and Social Bonding in Animal Models" in Frontiers in Biological Psychiatry in Childhood. Edited by Morrow, E.M., J.F. Rosenbaum, M. Fava, and J. Biederman. In press.

Donaldson, Z.R. and G.F. Grether (2007) Tradition without social learning: pheromone-based communal roost sites in a Neotropical harvestman (Prionostemma spp.). Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology. (61) 5:801-809.

Grether, G.F. and Z.R. Donaldson (2007) Communal Roost Site Selection in a Neotropical Harvestman: Habitat limitation vs. tradition. Ethology. 113:290-300.

Bourdelet-Parks, B., G. Anderson, Z. Donaldson, J. Weiss, R. Bonsall, M. Emery, L. Liles, D. Weinshenker. (2005) Effects of dopamine beta-hydroxylase genotype and disulfiram inhibition on catecholamine synthesis in mice. Psychopharmacology. (183) 1:72-80.

Tillman, J.A., L.M. Lu, L.M. Goddard, Z.R. Donaldson, S.C. Dwinnel, C. Tittiger, G.M. Hall, A.J. Storer, G.J. Blomquist, S.J. Seybold. (2004) Juvenile Hormone regulates de novo isoprenoid aggregation pheromone biosynthesis in the pine bark beetle, Ips. SPP. (Coleopteran: Scolytidae), through transcriptional control of HMG-CoA Reductase. Journal of Chemical Ecology. (30) 12:2459-2494.

Contact information

Columbia University
Department of Psychology
406 Schermerhorn Hall
1190 Amsterdam Ave
New York
NY 10027

tel:212 854-2490

fax:212 854-3609

email: Dr Zoe Donaldson