Zachary Freyberg, MD, PhD
Photo: Zachary Freyberg



Elected 2022

Dr. Zachary Freyberg is an Associate Professor at the University of Pittsburgh in the Departments of Psychiatry and Cell Biology. Dr. Freyberg completed his undergraduate education, majoring in Molecular Biophysics & Biochemistry at Yale University. This was followed by M.D./Ph.D. training at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine where he examined the cell biology of neuroendocrine hormone secretion. Upon graduation, Dr. Freyberg completed his clinical training in psychiatry at New York Presbyterian/Cornell-Payne Whitney Clinic. He then pursued postdoctoral training through a T32-funded schizophrenia research fellowship at Columbia University where he examined the molecular basis of presynaptic vesicular dopamine release and its implications for amphetamine’s mechanisms of action. Since his training, Dr. Freyberg established his laboratory at Columbia, and is now based at the University of Pittsburgh in the Department of Psychiatry. The overall goal of Dr. Freyberg's laboratory is to elucidate fundamental cell biological processes underlying human neuropsychiatric disorders at the molecular level. This is a field that he has been involved in for over 20 years, beginning as an undergraduate student in the laboratory of Dr. Pietro De Camilli, followed by his graduate work with Dr. Dennis Shields, postdoctoral work with Dr. Jonathan Javitch and as an independent PI. As a physician-scientist with clinical training in neurology and psychiatry, Dr. Freyberg has had direct experience working with patients with neuropsychiatric illnesses ranging from schizophrenia and Parkinson’s disease. Given the importance of dopamine and dopamine receptor signaling in these disorders, he has applied his cell biological training to elucidate mechanisms of presynaptic dopamine release and signaling in physiological and pathophysiological contexts. This led Dr. Freyberg to establish three primary research directions using a combination of cutting-edge imaging, genetics and neuropharmacology across Drosophila and rodent models as well as in postmortem human brain: (1) development of new imaging approaches to visualize the intracellular machinery of vesicular neurotransmitter release using cryo-electron microcopy (cryo-EM) and cryo-electron tomography (cryo-ET) in situ in healthy and disease states; (2) elucidation of the regulation of vesicular dopamine loading and release and its dysregulation in neuropsychiatric diseases; and (3) characterization of dopamine’s roles in the periphery and how psychiatric medications including antipsychotic drugs disrupt this peripheral signaling to cause metabolic dysfunction.