Dale Zhou

PhD candidate
University of Pennsylvania



  • Brain networks controlling lossy compression     How does different network wiring control dynamics to compactly represent information?
  • Curiosity as open-ended search     What strategies do people use to search and build complex webs of information?
  • Economics of connectomics in development     How does cognitive capacity depend on trade-offs among limited resources for brain maturation?
  • Computational psychiatry     How can mental illness arise from maladaptive trade-offs of limited resources in behavior and development?
  • Science of science     How do we and how should we practice science?

University of Maryland, College Park National Institute of Mental Health
Too much

Dale moved from Atlanta, GA to Bethesda, MD as a child, blowing his chance at becoming a true southern gentleman. As consolation, he was awarded dual degrees and 3rd place in a campus-wide table tennis tournament by the University of Maryland. Weighing his prospects as a professional athlete, he decided to train at the National Institute of Mental Health in neuroscience. On occasion, Dale tried to escape his ever-northward destiny. One summer, he reportedly biked west across the U.S., traveling from Maryland to Oregon to help fight cancer. But his efforts proved fruitless; Dale moved north again to Philadelphia and joined Penn's Neuroscience Graduate Group. He yearns to one day search for research positions in all cardinal directions. Outside of lab, Dale enjoys reading, music, art, gaming, hiking, and maintaining lists of exciting future hobbies.

Email  CV  Google Scholar  GitHub  Twitter

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Selected Publications

The growth and form of knowledge networks by kinesthetic curiosity
Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences

Dale Zhou, David Lydon-Staley, Perry Zurn, Danielle Bassett

Preprint  Article  PDF


Throughout life, we might seek a calling, companions, skills, entertainment, truth, self-knowledge, beauty, and edification. In this review, we describe how the practice of curiosity can be viewed as an extended and open-ended search for valuable information with hidden identity and location in a complex space of interconnected information. We propose how a computational model of efficient search can be used to bridge curiosity, cognitive maps, and model-based reinforcement learning.

Builds from our work in Hunters, busybodies, and the knowledge network building associated with curiosity (Nature Human Behavior)
Efficient coding in the economics of human brain connectomics

Dale Zhou, Christopher Lynn, Zaixu Cui, Rastko Ciric, Graham Baum, Tyler Moore, David Roalf, John Detre, Ruben Gur, Raquel Gur, Theodore Satterthwaite, Danielle Bassett

Preprint   Code


We develop and test a theory of how brain network architecture and biology perform lossy compression to support efficient communication among spatially distributed brain regions. Our framework adapts the mathematics of information theory to understand the limits of sending and receiving packets of information with individually varying speed and reliability across white matter pathways of differing integrity. Longer pathways distort information flow, so brain regions with higher transmission fidelity send and receive packets with greater rate and reliability as a function of network topology prioritizing shortest paths. Our model parsimoniously explains communication as a function of network complexity, how highly connected hub regions integrate information, and the speed and accuracy of behavior.

Conference abstract at Organization of Human Brain Mapping 2020

7 T MRI reveals hippocampal structural abnormalities associated with memory intrusions in childhood-onset schizophrenia
Schizophrenia Research

Dale Zhou, Siyuan Liu, Xueping Zhou, Rebecca Berman, Diane Broadnax, Peter Gochman, Judith Rapoport, Adam Thomas

Article  PDF  Code


The hippocampus and its small subregions are areas of the brain that play an integral role in memory. Our study leveraged new brain imaging methods to study these small subregions and their relation to memory impairment in childhood-onset schizophrenia patients. We found evidence of disrupted morphometric structure (i.e. tissue contraction) associated with impaired memory. If further research corroborates these findings, the specific structural links to memory impairment could inform targeted clinical interventions.

Presented at Julius Axelrod Symposium 2017
Conference abstracts at Society for Neuroscience 2016 , American College of Neuropsychopharmacology 2016, Society for Biological Psychiatry 2017
15q13.3 duplication in two patients with childhood-onset schizophrenia
American Journal of Medical Genetics: B

Dale Zhou, Peter Gochman, Diane Broadnax, Judith Rapoport, Kwangmi Ahn

Article  PDF


We provided evidence of a new genetic mutation associated with childhood-onset schizophrenia; specifically, the duplication of the 15q13.3 chromosomal region. Our findings hold import to affected families and their genetic counselors, for whom incomplete penetrance and variable expressivity of these mutations offer substantial challenges. In previous research, the affected genes normally encode neuronal channel receptor proteins which were related to schizophrenia symptoms when mutated. Further research on gene dosage and downstream effects of this mutation may enhance understanding of contributing factors to schizophrenia and improve assessments of genetic risk.

Conference abstract at Society for Biological Psychiatry 2016


Advocacy & Outreach

I organize and have have been involved in outreach and mentoring across several programs:


Sparking curiosity
Exhibited at Reveal: The Art of Reimagining Scientific Discovery
Organized and curated by Rebecca Kamen and Sarah Tanguy
Museum at the Katzen Arts Center, American University

Dale Zhou, David Lydon-Staley, Perry Zurn, Danielle Bassett


Sparking Curiosity depicts the network dynamics of Rebecca Kamen's art process. This network was created from transcribed interviews, where each circle represents a word describing an idea that shaped her artistic journey; and each line indicates how similar those words are to each other. The colors represent communities of ideas that are more alike. Every frame of the video summarizes the spark of hundreds of ideas and their immediate neighbors spoken during the interview.

Builds from our work in Hunters, busybodies, and the knowledge network building associated with curiosity (Nature Human Behavior) and in The growth and form of knowledge networks by kinesthetic curiosity (Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences)


Website source code, adapted from template.