Dale Zhou

PhD candidate
University of Pennsylvania



  • Brain networks performing lossy compression     How do different network wiring architectures transform and represent information?
  • Curiosity as open-ended search     How do people explore 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 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  Goodreads

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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 (in press at 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 efforts and mentor students across several programs:
  • Innovators in Cognitive Neuroscience Symposia     Scientists leading innovative research and social justice efforts.
  • Black in STEM in Academia     A growing list of Black faculty scientists working in academic STEM fields.
  • cleanBib     Code that can be run in your internet browser to analyze how you engage with and cite the research of colleagues across gender and race.
  • Penn Network Visualization Program     Summer workshop for high schoolers and undergraduates, working with invited artists and professors from around the nation at the intersection of art, design, science, and networks.
  • Upward Bound: Research Fridays     Mentoring local Philadelphia high school students in summer research projects.
  • Brains in Brief     Science communication for University of Pennsylvania Neuroscience Graduate Group student research.


Website source code, adapted from template.