Department Of Child/Adolescent Psychiatry
Rachel Marsh, PhD
Dr. Rachel Marsh received a BA in psychology from Skidmore College and a Ph.D. in experimental psychology from the City University of New York. The focus of her graduate work was on cognitive and language development in infants. During her postdoctoral training, she began developing expertise in fMRI techniques and studying the functioning and development of the frontostriatal circuits that support self-regulatory capacities in healthy individuals and in those with psychopathologies that emerge during childhood and adolescence (e.g., Tourette syndrome, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and eating disorders).

The Cognitive Development and Neuroimaging Lab (CDNL), directed by Dr. Rachel Marsh, focuses on identifying alterations in the neurodevelopmental trajectories of self-regulatory control processes. Utilizing multimodal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques, behavioral, and clinical measures, CDNL studies self-regulatory control processes and how they change over development and following the remission of symptoms with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) in children (R01MH115024) and adults with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Their findings from adults with OCD suggest that an altered balance between task-positive and task-negative regions predicts response to therapy. Such alterations may lead to difficulty controlling both intrusive thoughts and resisting ritualistic behaviors (Pagliaccio, D. et al, PNAS, 2021). Their findings from children with OCD similarly point to functional and structural alterations in control circuits that predict response to CBT (Cyr, M. et al. Neuropsychopharmacology, 2019), consistent with their theory that interventions enhancing functioning of control circuits in pediatric OCD and anxiety disorders may facilitate brain maturation and lead to better treatment outcomes (Fitzgerald, K. D., Schroder H. S., & Marsh, R., Biological Psychiatry, 2020). Their work with large, publicly available datasets further points to alterations in these circuits as marking increased risk for OCD (Pagliaccio, D., et al, Depression and Anxiety, 2021).

Most recently, Dr. Marsh’s lab has taken a dyadic approach to understanding child development with one NIMH-funded study aimed at studying the intergenerational transmission of regulatory deficits from mother to child (R01MH117983) and another aimed at understanding the effects of prenatal SARS-CoV-2 on brain-behavioral indices of socioemotional functioning in mother-infant dyads (R01MH126531). This latter study capitalizes on the COVID-19 Mother Baby Outcome (COMBO) initiative, a large multidisciplinary collaborative that was established at CUIMC to follow SARS-CoV-2 exposed laboring mothers and their newborns and compare their long-term health outcomes to case-matched dyads without prenatal exposure. A supplement to this project was also awarded by the NIMH to tease apart the impact of COVID-19 and structural racism and discrimination, economic marginalization, and other social determinants of health as drivers of maternal mental health inequities.

Clinical Studies Managed By This Investigator:
Condition Study Title
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Study for Children with Excessive Worries and Fears
Pediatrics Study for Children with Excessive Worries and Fears