Professor Gavan P. McNally

Professor Gavan P. McNally

Professor Gavan P. McNally


BSc (Hon), PhD UNSW

Contact details

Phone: (02) 9385 3044
Email: Professor Gavan P. McNally
Fax: (02) 9385 3641

Office: Mathews, Room 512

Research Summary

Research Lab:

Our research is concerned with the fundamental psychological and brain mechanisms for associative learning and motivation and how these apply to clinical conditions such as addictions, anxiety disorders, and mood disorders.

We are interested in identiyfing these mechanisms, at the cellular, circuit, and systems level and also in translating this fundamental information into new treatments of psychological conditions.

To do so, we adopt a systems neuroscience approach, unique at UNSW and nationally, whereby we combine well controlled behavioural approaches with state of the art approaches (optogenetics, chemogenetics, in vivo calcium imaging, whole brain circuit mapping) in normal and transgenic animals to map and manipulate, at cellular and circuit levels, brain mechanisms. 

The lab currently comprises 6 postdoctoral fellows, 6 PhD students, 1 honours student, and several undergraduate assistants. Please contact me if you would like to join us.


PSYC 2081 Learning & Physiological Psychology

PSYC3051 Physiological Psychology

NEUR2201 Neuroscience Fundamentals


For a full list see my Research Lab:

Sengupta, A., Yau, J.O., Jean-Richard-dit-Bressel, P., Liu, S., Millan, E.Z., Power, J.M., & McNally, G.P. (2017). Basolateral amygdala neurons maintain aversive emotional salience. The Journal of Neuroscience, in press.

Choi, E.A. & McNally, G.P. (2017). Paraventricular thalamus balances danger and reward. The Journal of Neuroscience, 37, 3018 - 3029.

Prasad, A.A. & McNally, G.P. (2016). Ventral pallidum output pathways in context-induced reinstatement of alcohol seeking. The Journal of Neuroscience, 36, 11716-11726.

Sengupta, A. Winters, B., Bagley, E.E., & McNally, G.P. (2016). Disrupted prediction error links excessive amygdala activation to excessive fear. The Journal of Neuroscience, 36, 385-395.

Yau, J.Y. & McNally, G.P. (2015). Pharmacogenetic excitation of prefrontal cortex neurons restores fear prediction error. The Journal of Neuroscience, 35, 74-83.

Bagley E.E., Hacker J., Chefer, V.I., Mallet, C., McNally G.P., Chieng, B.C.H. Perroud, J., Shippenberg, T.S., & Christie M.J. (2011). Drug-induced GABA transporter currents enhance GABA release and produce opioid withdrawal behaviors. Nature Neuroscience, 14, 1548-1554.

McNally, G.P., Johansen, J., & Blair, H.T. (2011). Placing prediction into the fear circuit. Trends in Neurosciences, 34, 283 - 292.

Marchant, N.J., Furlong, T.M., & McNally, G.P. (2010). Medial dorsal hypothalamus mediates the inhibition of reward seeking after extinction.  The Journal of Neuroscience, 30, 14102-14115.

Marchant, N., Hamlin, A.S., & McNally, G.P.  (2009). Lateral hypothalamus is required for context-induced reinstatement of reward seeking. The Journal of Neuroscience, 29, 1331-1342.

Millan, Z., Furlong, T.M., & McNally, G.P. (2010). Accumbens shell –hypothalamus interactions mediate extinction of reward seeking. The Journal of Neuroscience, 30, 4626 – 4635.

Iordanova, M., McNally, G.P., & Westbrook, R.F. (2006). Opioid receptors in the nucleus accumbens regulate attentional learning in the blocking paradigm. The Journal of Neuroscience, 26, 4036-4045. 

McNally, G.P., Pigg, M., & Weidemann, G. (2004). Opioid receptors in the midbrain periaqueductal gray matter regulate the extinction of Pavlovian fear conditioning. The Journal of Neuroscience, 24, 6912-6919.

Awards, Fellowships & Grants


Pavlovian Research Award (Pavlovian Society)
Rising Star (Association for Psychological Science)
D.G. Marquis Behavioral Neuroscience Award (American Psychological Association)


Fellow, The American Psychological Association
Fellow, The Association for Psychological Science

Affiliations & Memberships

Current Editorial Positions:

  • Associate Editor – The Journal of Neuroscience
  • Associate Editor - Neurobiology of Learning & Memory
  • Consulting Editor – Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Consulting Editor – Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes

Current Research Students

Lucy Choi
Gabrielle Gibson
Constance Peng
Sylvia Liu
Amy Li
Jamie Dracup