Rachel Marsh, PhD

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Dr. Rachel Marsh received a BA in psychology from Skidmore College and a PhD 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). She is currently conducting a longitudinal multimodal MRI study aimed at understanding how abnormalities in overlapping frontostriatal neural circuits contribute to the persistence of bulimia nervosa over adolescence and adulthood. With her collaborators, Dr. Marsh is also studying how the circuits that support control and reward processes change following the remission of symptoms in adult and pediatric OCD, and how these circuits are involved in learning disabilities in children. In summary, Dr. Marsh’s research investigates the functioning and structure of the neural circuits that support self-regulation, learning, and memory in normal development and in the development of childhood psychiatric disorders. The overarching goal of this work is to determine when in development abnormalities in these circuits arise, so that we can determine where, when, and how to intervene, and thereby prevent illness persistence.

Academic Appointments

  • Irving Philips Professor of Medical Psychology (in Child Psychology) at CUMC

Administrative Titles

  • Director of MRI Research at New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York NY


  • Female


The overarching goal of my research is to understand the neurodevelopmental trajectories of psychiatric disorders that arise during childhood and adolescence. Specifically, my Cognitive Development and Neuroimaging Laboratory uses multimodal MRI techniques to study the function, structure, and connectivity of the neural circuits that support the capacity for self-regulation over development in health and in psychiatric illnesses such as Tourette Syndrome (Marsh, Zhu et al. 2007), Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD, Marsh, Horga et al. 2014), and Bulimia Nervosa (Marsh, Horga et al. 2011; Marsh, Stefan et al. 2013). We also study the functioning of ventral fronto-striatal and mesolimbic circuits that support reward-based learning in persons with these disorders using a translational fMRI paradigm that is analogous to radial-arm maze tasks used with rodents. This paradigm has allowed us to uncover, for example, dysfunction specific to anterior hippocampus that might underlie both anxiety and reward processing abnormalities in OCD {Marsh, 2015 #11061}.

My lab is currently conducting an NIMH-funded longitudinal, multimodal MRI study of the neurodevelopment of fronto-striatal control circuits in adolescents with Bulimia Nervosa (R01MH090062). We are also conducting cross-sectional studies of the functioning of the overlapping circuits that support control, reward, and habit learning processes in adults (R21MH093889) and young children (R21MH101441) with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. In collaboration with the Anxiety Disorders Clinic at NYSPI, my lab is also conducting a longitudinal study of the function and connectivity of these circuits in adults with OCD before and after cognitive behavioral treatment (R01MH104648). Finally, I supervise a research program aimed at understanding the neural correlates of learning processes in children with learning disorders. Thus, my research program has the potential to offer graduate students rich exposure to clinical neuroimaging research.

Research Interests

  • Brain Imaging
  • Cognitive/Systems Neuroscience
  • Neurobiology of Learning and Memory

Selected Publications

Marsh, R., G. Horga, et al. (2014). "Altered activation in fronto-striatal circuits during sequential processing of conflict in unmedicated adults with obsessive-compulsive disorder." Biological psychiatry 75(8): 615-622.

Marsh, R., G. Horga, et al. (2011). "An FMRI study of self-regulatory control and conflict resolution in adolescents with bulimia nervosa." The American journal of psychiatry 168(11): 1210-1220.

Marsh, R., M. Stefan, et al. (2013). "Anatomical Characteristics of the Cerebral Surface in Bulimia Nervosa." Biological psychiatry.

Marsh, R., J. E. Steinglass, et al. (2009). "Deficient activity in the neural systems that mediate self-regulatory control in bulimia nervosa." Archives of general psychiatry 66(1): 51-63.

Marsh, R., H. Zhu, et al. (2007). "A Developmental fMRI Study of Self-Regulatory Control in Tourette's Syndrome." Am J Psychiatry 164(6): 955-966.