In memoriam: Eran Zaidel


Date published: 07/01/21

Eran Zaidel

We are saddened to share that Eran Zaidel, Ph.D., an internationally recognized figure in the field of neuropsychology and cognitive neuroscience who transformed our understanding of the lateralization of cognitive functions, passed away at home last night. He was 77 years old.

Dr. Zaidel joined the faculty of the Department of Psychology in 1979, after being mentored by Nobel laureate Roger Sperry at Caltech, where he obtained his Ph.D. in 1973. He received his BS degree from Columbia University where he majored in math and physics. During his tenure in Psychology, Dr. Zaidel mentored and was loved by generations of graduate students who are now faculty in universities around the world and themselves internationally recognized scientists. He had a Career Development Award from the NIH to pursue his research for many years. In his work, Dr. Zaidel combined cognitive and experimental psychology, neuropsychology, anatomy, electrophysiology and brain imaging to investigate the lateralization of cognitive functions in the human brain.

Key among his legacy, Dr. Zaidel studied extensively the split brain, revealing linguistic functions of the right hemisphere that were unknown before his work. He extended his research on the split brain to the study of the intact brain, to investigate how the corpus callosum operates to control inter-hemispheric interactions in human cognitive functions, including self recognition, error processing, visuo-spatial attention, visuo-motor integration, and emotion processing.

One of his most original methodological contributions to the field of brain research is the invention of the Z-lens. Dr. Zaidel invented the Z-lens in 1970, while in the lab of Roger Sperry. The Z-lens is a contact lens that stabilizes retinal images, allowing active exploration of a visual stimulus with eye movements while at the same time only half of the visual field is stimulated during visual exploration, therefore only the hemisphere contralateral to the stimulated visual field receives the visual information for prolonged periods, as opposed to the quick flashes of the hemi-field technique, which limited what could be learned about language.

Dr. Zaidel is survived by his wife Dahlia, his 2 sons, and 5 grandchildren. A small family service will be held.

— Marco Iacoboni, M.D. Ph.D.