Dana G Smith, PhD

Health + Science Writer


I write about the fascinating, bizarre, and exciting science that comes fresh out of the lab every day. 

Me, wearing a brain on my brain.

Me, wearing a brain on my brain.

As a freelance writer, I focus on stories relating to health and science—the weirder the better—with a special interest in the brain. I've written about extreme measures to stop the aging process, electrically shocking the brain to improve memory, what eating the hottest chili pepper on earth does to your body, finding treatments for incurable diseases using CRISPR and stem cells, and using neuroscience to predict the next NBA champions. My work has been featured in The Atlantic, The Guardian, Scientific American, Vice, Fast Company, Popular Science, Discover, Medium, and Undark. 

I also help universities and research organizations tell their stories of scientific discovery, the realities of lab life, and the personalities who make the magic happen. For several years, I worked at the Gladstone Institutes and the University of California, San Francisco, translating and promoting life science research to the public.

Before transitioning to a career in writing, I was a research scientist and completed a PhD in Experimental Psychology from the University of Cambridge. There, I studied drug addiction and binge eating disorder using cognitive testing and functional neuroimaging.

Science Journalism

Scientific American
New App Uses Sonar to Detect Opioid Overdoses
More Than a Third of Female Suicides Are Committed by Indian Women
Neuroscientists Make a Case against Solitary Confinement
How Marijuana Harms a Developing Baby’s Brain
Big Data Gives the “Big 5” Personality Traits a Makeover
An Entirely New Type of Antidepressant Targets Postpartum Depression
Global Warming Linked to Higher Suicide Rates across North America
The Placenta Is Now a Suspect In Heightening Schizophrenia Risk
Daydreaming May Help You Become More Socially Adept
At What Age Does Our Ability to Learn a New Language Like a Native Speaker Disappear?
Sound Awake: “Noisy” Neurons May Repeatedly Disrupt Your Sleep
Brain “Pacemaker” Could Help You Remember Only What You Might Forget
How to Hack an Intelligent Machine
Parents in a Remote Amazon Village Barely Talk to Their Babies—and the Kids Are Fine
Meet the Spiders That Completely Defy What We Know as Jet Lag

Popular Science
Too Impatient to Meditate? A Mild Shock to the Scalp Could Help
Lack of Sleep Looks the Same as Severe Anxiety in the Brain
As Summers Get Hotter, Death Tolls Will Rise
Why Do We Think Tiny Things Are Cute?
Why Are Some Athletes Able to Compete into Their 40s?
New Tech Could Soon Let You Test Whether Your Lettuce Carries E. Coli
Pro Basketball Players' Synchronous Movements Might Help Us Predict the Next NBA Champ

The Guardian
This Is What Candy Crush Does to Your Brain
Spending More Time in the Dark Could Boost Hearing in Old Age
Cannabis and Memory Loss: Dude, Where's my CBD?
Drug Use, Decision-Making and the Blunders of Rob Ford
Are Oreos Really as Addictive as Cocaine?

The Case for CRISPR Babies
Brain Stimulation Is the Future of Medicine
What Exactly Is Cancer Immunotherapy?
How Juul Exploited Teens’ Brains to Hook Them on Nicotine

The Atlantic
Humans Can Smell 1 Trillion Scents
How a Pregnant Mother's Diet Could Change a Child's Brain
Anxiety About Certain Things Can Be Hereditary
Why Spend a Billion Dollars to Map the Human Brain?

New Diabetes Monitors Require Fewer Pricks, Less Guessing
Before You Try the Ketogenic Diet, Read This
Capturing the Sound of Depression in the Human Voice
Blood From Young People May Be a Secret to Fighting Aging

Vice: Tonic
Can I Give My Dog CBD?
Some People Are Specifically Anxious About Talking on the Phone
This Is What Eating the Hottest Pepper on Earth Will Do to Your Body

Can Genetic Testing Help Shed Light on the Autism Epidemic?
This App Helps Diagnose Rare Genetic Disorders from a Picture
Why Blindness Will Be the First Disorder Cured by Futuristic Treatments

Heads Up: Female Soccer Players More Prone to Brain Damage Than Males
Blind Sight: The Next Generation of Sensory Substitution Technology

Fast Company
The Business of Fasting

Scientists and Journalists Square Off Over Covering Science and ‘Getting it Right’

The Truth About Electrical Brain Stimulation

Pacific Standard
Hallucinogens, Starvation, and Magnets: A New Cure for Depression?

Academic Publications

Using a drug-word Stroop task to differentiate recreational from dependent drug use
DG Smith, KD Ersche - CNS Spectrums, 2014

Overlapping decline in orbitofrontal gray matter volume related to cocaine use and body mass index
DG Smith, PS Jones, GB Williams, ET Bullmore, TW Robbins, KD Ersche - Addiction Biology, 2014

Enhanced orbitofrontal cortex activation and lack of attentional bias to cocaine cues in recreational stimulant users
DG Smith, PS Jones, ET Bullmore, TW Robbins, KD Ersche - Biological Psychiatry, 2014

Cognitive control dysfunction and abnormal frontal cortex activation in stimulant dependent individuals and their biological siblings
DG Smith, PS Jones, ET Bullmore, TW Robbins, KD Ersche - Translational Psychiatry, 2013

The neurobiological underpinnings of obesity and binge eating: A rationale for adopting the food addiction model
DG Smith and TW Robbins - Biological Psychiatry, 2013

Decision-making in children and adolescents: Impaired Iowa Gambling Task performance in early adolescence
DG Smith, L Xiao, A Bechara - Developmental Psychology, 2012