Who We Are

Cognitive Development & Neuroimaging Lab

Who We Are

Rachel Marsh
Lab Director
Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology (in Psychiatry)

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.

Amy Margolis
Principal Investigator, PROMISE Project Reading Study
Assistant Professor of Medical Psychology (in Psychiatry) at CUMC

Amy Margolis has a PhD in applied educational psychology: school psychology, and an MSEd in neuroscience and education from Teachers College. In the first decade of her career, she established a comprehensive assessment and treatment program for children with learning disabilities and attention disorders. In 2010, Dr. Margolis transitioned to a research career and completed the NIMH-funded T32 in research in child psychiatry in 2013, becoming an Assistant Professor in the Division of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. Her research aims to understand how learning problems are related to underlying deficiencies in the structure and function of neural systems that support learning processes. With funding from PROMISE at Columbia, she is using MRI to examine how neural circuits that support cognitive control and learning processes produce reading disorder and, with funding from the NVLD Project, she is studying children with nonverbal learning disorder. Dr. Margolis is the recent recipient of an NIEHS–funded K Award to study how exposure to neurotoxic chemicals may affect neurodevelopment and manifest as subsequent learning and social problems. Her research program seeks to inform the development of novel therapeutics and early prevention programs for people with learning disabilities.

Xiaofu He
Assistant Professor of Clinical Neurobiology

Dr. He received his PhD in pattern recognition and intelligent systems from Shanghai Jiao Tong University. During his graduate studies, he was trained in the research of image processing and pattern recognition with a focus on biometrics. During his postdoctoral training, Dr. He developed expertise in brain imaging, including structural MRI, functional MRI (fMRI), and, particularly, diffusion tensor imaging (DTI). One of Dr. He’s long-term goals is to bring together his expertise in image processing, pattern recognition, computational modeling, and neuroimaging to the challenge of understanding the developing brain, leading to more reliable findings in the important area of clinically oriented neuroimaging research and to better understand the mechanisms of depression and other psychiatric disorders.

Marilyn Cyr, Ph.D., Psy.D.

Marilyn Cyr, PhD, PsyD

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Dr. Cyr received a MSc and a PhD in experimental psychology and a PsyD in clinical psychology from the University of Quebec at Montreal (UQAM). Her graduate research focused on examining the role of brain neurochemical systems in cognition and behavior, using various techniques, such as PET imaging. Her clinical predoctoral internship focused on the treatment of patients with pathological eating and patients with OCD. In recent years, she has developed an interest in the neurobiology and treatment of disorders characterized by deficits in self-regulation (inhibition, emotion regulation, and impulse control), particularly eating disorders.

Mihaela Stefan, MA

Lab Manager

Mihaela received her BA in communication sciences with a concentration in linguistics and languages from the University of Bucharest, followed by an MA from SNSPA Bucharest in communication sciences. Her main interests were in language and information processing and their contribution to human communication. After graduating from university, Mihaela joined a group that founded one of the first media monitoring agencies in Romania and developed expertise in content-analysis methods and research software (most of the social and psychological research had been previously discouraged due to the political context). She came to the USA in 2007 and began volunteering at NYSPI in 2010 and learning about neuroimaging research, specifically MRI data acquisition and processing. Mihaela began working with Dr. Marsh in 2012 and is now manager of the Cognitive Development and Neuroimaging lab. She oversees all MRI data acquisition, data storage, and anatomical image processing for the lab, contributing to the scientific research as well. She also trains and coordinates the activities for our volunteers and other research assistants.

David Pagliaccio

David Pagliaccio, PhD

Project Manager

Dr. David Pagliaccio received a PhD in neuroscience from Washington University in St. Louis. His graduate work with Dr. Deanna Barch focused on the effects of stress and stress-system genes on brain structure and function in children with early-onset depression. During his postdoctoral fellowship with Drs. Daniel Pine and Ellen Leibenluft, Dr. Pagliaccio continued fMRI research to examine the neural underpinnings of pediatric anxiety and irritability. As a project manager with the Marsh Lab, he is using neuroimaging to explore alterations in brain circuitry and functioning relating to impulsive-compulsive behaviors, learning disorders, and other pediatric pathologies.

Sophie Schiff

Sophie Schiff, BA

Project Coordinator

Sophie Schiff graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2014 with a BA in cognitive science. As an undergraduate, Sophie worked as a research assistant in a psychology lab studying neuroeconomics. After two years at Horizon Media, in 2016, Sophie began as a volunteer in Dr. Marsh's lab assisting with study coordination and data analysis. In her current role, Sophie coordinates the ongoing pediatric and adult fMRI studies on OCD and is involved in the collection, processing, and analysis of neuroimaging data for Dr. Marsh's ongoing projects. Sophie is interested in studying how to utilize neuroimaging to understand anxiety disorders and to better understand the effect of current therapies on brain function. Sophie plans to pursue a PhD in clinical psychology.

Sarah Banker, BA

Sarah Banker, BA

Research Assistant

Sarah Banker graduated from Wesleyan University in 2017 with a BA in neuroscience and behavior. As an undergraduate, Sarah worked as a research assistant in a neuro-immunology lab studying multiple sclerosis and in a neuroscience lab studying the development of the visual system. After graduation, Sarah began working as a volunteer on Dr. Amy Margolis’s research studies, where she started learning about neuroimaging and learning disabilities in children. She now assists Dr. Margolis with data collection and analysis. In the future, Sarah hopes to pursue a doctoral degree in clinical psychology or a related field.

Martine Fontaine, BA

Research Assistant

Martine obtained a BA in psychology from Paul Valéry University of Montpellier, where she also completed the first year of a MA in clinical psychology and mental health. She began training at the Institute of Family Therapy in France before moving to the US. Martine began volunteering for Dr. Marsh in 2011 and learning neuroimaging techniques. She is now responsible for acquiring multi-modal imaging data from our research participants with bulimia nervosa, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and healthy control participants. She is also responsible for processing the anatomical data acquired for these participants. Martine is currently expanding her knowledge of computerized brain models by beginning an introduction to FreeSurfer (a software program). These diverse experiences are allowing Martine to explore her research interests prior to pursuing a PhD in clinical psychology.

Lauren Thomas

Lauren Thomas, EdM, NCSP

Research Assistant

Lauren graduated from the George Washington University in 2012 with a BA in psychology and a secondary degree in business administration. As an undergraduate, Lauren was a research assistant in the Health Cognitions and Behavior Lab, and studied college students' thoughts and beliefs about health issues (e.g., skin cancer). Lauren went on to graduate from Teachers College in 2015 with an EdM in school psychology and a MA in educational psychology: schooling. She now works as a research assistant and coordinates Dr. Amy Margolis's research studies, which investigate learning disabilities in children.

Past Lab Members


Emily Steinberg, BA

Emily graduated from the University of Michigan in 2015 with a BA in psychology. Emily first joined NYSPI as a volunteer at the Pediatric Anxiety and Mood Research Clinic (PAMRC), where she worked on a study exploring antibiotic augmentation to SRI medication for youth with treatment-resistant OCD. Emily spent two years as coordinator of Dr. Marsh's research studies, where she developed a particular interest in examining post-treatment changes in the neural circuits implicated in pediatric OCD, as well as family factors that may influence children's treatment trajectories. Emily is currently pursuing a PhD in clinical psychology at Fordham University.


Kate Terranova, BA

Kate graduated from George Washington University in 2012 with a BA in psychology. In our lab, Kate coordinated an NIMH multimodal imagining study of adolescents with bulimia nervosa. She is now a third-year graduate student at Fordham University's Counseling PhD Program. She has a continued interest in eating disorders and has chosen to focus her master's thesis research on women's recovery from bulimia.

Marsh Lab Collaborators

The Columbia Center for Eating Disorders: This is a comprehensive care center for eating disorders that integrates the treatment services in the Eating Disorders Research Unit at CU/NYSPI and the Eating Disorders Program at the Westchester division of Weill Cornell Medical College/NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. Adolescents with eating disorders who participate in Dr. Marsh’s research studies receive no-cost treatment through the outpatient and inpatient resources of the center.

Zhishun Wang, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Clinical Neurobiology (in Psychiatry). His expertise is in the development of advanced methodology and algorithms for processing functional imaging data. He collaborates with Dr. Marsh, applying his software packages to analyze the fMRI data collected in her lab.

Guillermo Horga, MD, is an Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychiatry in the Division of Translational Imaging at NYSPI and CUMC. He uses fMRI to study the neural computations involved in reinforcement learning, sensory learning, cognitive control, and other higher-order cognitive functions, and how deficits in these computations may lead to various mental illnesses, with a particular focus on psychotic disorders. Drs. Horga and Marsh collaborate on most fMRI studies conducted in Dr. Marsh's lab.

H. Blair Simpson, MD, is director of the Anxiety Disorders Clinic at NYSPI. She collaborates with Dr. Marsh and her lab on imaging studies of adults with OCD.

Moira Rynn, MD, is director of the Department of Psychiatry at Duke University. She collaborates with Dr. Marsh and her lab on imaging studies of children and adolescents with OCD.

Laura Berner, PhD, is currently a postdoctoral research fellow at UCSD. Dr. Marsh is a mentor on her research examining the neural correlates of self-regulatory control in bulimia nervosa (BN). In addition, Laura collaborates on ongoing studies of individuals with BN in the Cognitive Development and Neuroimaging Lab.