• Dept. of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences

    Wayne State University School of Medicine

  • About

    The "THINK" in THINK lab stands for Trauma History Investigation of Neurodevelopment in Kids. We study the impact of stress and trauma during childhood on brain development in children and adolescents, as well as, neurodevelopmental mechanisms leading to anxiety and other "fear-based" disorders, such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These disorders are extremely common and affect about one in three people at some point during their lifetime. Fear-based disorders also begin during childhood and adolescence, so our research takes a developmental approach.

    Research Themes

    • The impact of childhood trauma —including interpersonal forms of trauma (e.g., violence) and medical-related trauma (e.g., cancer diagnosis, treatments) —  on brain and behavioral development in children and adolescents.
    • The role of the endocannabinoid system in modulating frontolimbic brain development and risk of fear-based disorders.
    • Behavioral (e.g. exercise, meditation) or pharmacological interventions (e.g., cannabidiol, CBD) that target the endocannabinoid system for the treatment and/or prevention of fear-based disorders in youth.
    • The impact of prenatal cannabis exposure and adolescent cannabis use on neurodevelopmental and mental health outcomes. 


    To study brain development in children and adolescents, our research uses several neuroscientific techniques, including functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), structural MRI, electroencephalography (EEG), blood and saliva biomarkers, genetic variants, skin conductance responses (SCRs), and behavior.

  • Ongoing Research Studies

    Volunteer for paid research opportunities

    Participate in paid research studies!

    Click on this link to complete a form to be contacted about research opportunities!

    Wayne State ABCD study

    Adolescent Brain Cannabinoid Development (ABCD) Study: Parents of 10-17 yr olds living in Detroit or the surrounding areas: Take a brief online survey and have your child complete a brief survey and earn a $20 e-gift card for your participation!


    Help Wayne State researchers understand the things that children & teens experience. Your child may also be eligible for a larger study that compensates $180. Watch this 2-minute video to learn more about the study. Contact us to get started!

    DRYVE Study

    The Detroit Research on Youth Violence Exposure (DRYVE) study is an online survey study to learn more about local Detroit neighborhoods and community violence in teens. Teenagers between the ages of 14-18 yrs (and one parent/guardian) living in Detroit may be eligible to participate. If that's you or your teen, contact us!

    CBD Study


    This study is to examine the effects of cannabidiol (CBD) on anxiety and behavioral problems among children with epilepsy. In partnership with Dr. Aimee Luat, MD (Children's Hospital of Michigan).

    E = MBH

    This study is to learn about the beneficial effects of exercise and endocannabinoids on mental and brain health in 9-17-year-old children. In partnership with Dr. Jeanne Barcelona, PhD (WSU Center for Community Health).

  • Recent Publications (past year)

    For a list of the THINK lab's published research, click here

    A systematic review and meta-analysis on the effects of exercise on the endocannabinoid system

    Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research (2021)

    Martial arts-based curriculum reduces stress, emotional, and behavioral problems in elementary schoolchildren during the COVID-19 pandemic: A pilot study

    Mind, Brain, and Education (2021)

    Are the kids really alright? Impact of COVID-19 on mental health in a majority Black American sample of schoolchildren

    Psychiatry Research (2021)

    Violence exposure and mental health consequences among urban youth

    Psychiatry Research (2021)

    Bridging the gap: Preparing the next generation of brain scientists to communicate with the general public and lawmakers

    Neuropsychopharmacology (2022)

    Community Violence Exposure is Associated with Hippocampus–Insula Resting State Functional Connectivity in Urban Youth

    Neuroscience (2021)

    Implicit and explicit emotional memory recall in anxiety and depression: Role of basolateral amygdala and cortisol-norepinephrine interaction

    Psychoneuroendocrinology (2022)

    A common genetic variant in fatty acid amide hydrolase is linked to alterations in fear extinction neural circuitry in a racially diverse, nonclinical sample of adults

    Journal of Neuroscience Research (2021)

    Alterations in fear extinction neural circuitry and fear-related behavior linked to trauma exposure in children

    Behavioural Brain Research (2021)

    A virtual reality meditative intervention modulates pain and the pain neuromatrix in patients with opioid use disorder

    Pain Medicine (2021)


    Meet the minds of the THINK Lab

    Principal Investigator

    Dr. Marusak is a tenure-track Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences, Wayne State University School of Medicine. She is also an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute for Child and Family Development, a Scientific Member of the Karmanos Cancer Institute and the CURES Center, and a Science Advisor for the nonprofit organization Kids Kicking Cancer.

    Postdoctoral Research Fellow

    Dr. Zundel earned her Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Wayne State University, then went on to complete a PhD in Behavioral Neuroscience at Boston University School of Medicine. Her PhD work focused on the effects of neurotoxicant exposures on aging within the Gulf War veteran population, using neuropsychological assessment and structural brain imaging techniques. Dr. Zundel’s research interests include the impact of environmental stressors, particularly urban air pollution, on neurodevelopment and mental health in children and adolescents.

    Research Coordinator

    Julia Evanski recently graduated from Michigan State University with a B.S. in Neuroscience as well as a B.S. in Human Biology. Her recent research focused on the neuroscience of vision. Her future plans include continuing to pursue a path in neuroscientific research at Wayne State University. In her free time she enjoys playing with her kitten, loves to travel and is an avid hiker.

    Amanpreet Bhoghal

    Research Assistant & Social Media Director

    Aman earned her bachelor's degree in Psychology in 2019 from Wayne State University. As an aspiring pediatric physician, she is passionate about working with children and studying brain and behavioral development in children and adolescents. Additionally, Aman has been interested in bridging the communication of research to the lay audience with her creative work in film.

    Research Assistant

    Leah graduated from the University of Michigan in 2022, earning a B.A. with a double major in Psychology and History. She is interested in examining how adverse childhood experiences impact brain and behavioral development. In the future, she plans on attending graduate school and earning a PhD in clinical science. Outside of the lab, Leah enjoys playing with her kitten, powerlifting, and watching Marvel movies.

    Research Technician

    Shreya is recently graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Neuroscience and a minor in Psychology from Wayne State University. She is interested in pursuing medical school, and in exploring brain development in children who have experienced trauma. She is also interested in researching the effects of mindfulness on children, and in science communication and policy.

    Research Volunteer

    Aneesh is a medical student at Wayne State University School of Medicine. He completed his bachelor's degree in Biological Sciences at Wayne State University. He is interested in pursuing a career in Child & Adolescent Psychiatry and/or Neuropsychiatry.

    Research Volunteer

    Mohammed is a third year medical student at Wayne State School of Medicine. Mohammed completed my bachelor's degree in genomics and molecular genetics at Michigan State University and is interested in pursuing a career in either Anesthesiology or Pediatrics.

    Research Volunteer

    Shelley is currently an undergraduate student at Wayne State University, majoring in Public Health and minoring in Neuroscience. Shelley plans to apply to medical school and is interested in specializing in Pediatric Oncology/Hematology. Shelley has been a research assistant in Dr. Marusak's studies for over 4 years and has worked on several projects, including two co-authored publications. In her free time, Shelley loves working out, attending Bikram Yoga, and spending quality time with her son Dylan and cat Piglet.

    Autumm Heeter

    Research Volunteer

    Autumm is a 2020 graduate from Wayne State University and received her bachelor’s degree in Public Health. She is currently working on the DRYVE study and is interested in the effects of community violence exposure on threat sensitivity. She hopes to attend medical school in the near future and plans to continue conducting research as a physician.

    Research Volunteer

    Zazai is an alumni of Wayne State University, where she received her bachelor’s and master’s degree in Education. She currently works as a Special Ed.Teacher with developmentally delayed preschool and kindergarten children in Detroit, Zazai works concurrently as a Behavioral Health Technician with St. John Ascension Health. She is also a premedical student, applying to medical school. Zazai is facilitating a partnership between Detroit Public Schools and the THINK LAB.

    Research Volunteer

    Jennifer is an alumnus of Central Michigan University with her bachelor's degree in Psychology. She is currently a second-year graduate student in the Basic Medical Sciences program at Wayne State University. Jennifer is interested in better understanding the biological and environmental factors that puts children at risk for development of psychiatric disorders and utilizing neuroimaging techniques to evaluate structural and functional brain changes associated with psychiatric disorders.

    Research Volunteer

    Nina is currently an undergraduate student at the University of California San Diego, working toward her major in Biology. She is a premedical student who is interested in exploring the field of behavioral neuroscience and psychiatry.

    Research Volunteer

    Myles is a graduate of Howard University with a bachelor's degree in Psychology. Former psychiatric care technician at Havenwyck Hospital, Myles has now redirected his focus back towards his studies. An aspiring physician, he is currently a Postbacc student at Wayne State with a focus in pre-med. Through education and research, he aims to acquire knowledge that will allow him to leave a lasting impact on the world we share.

    We are recruiting

    Email us!

    We are recruiting graduate students through the Translational Neuroscience PhD Program in the Wayne State University School of Medicine.


    Interested? Please email Julia.

  • Alumni

    Savanah Rayyan, now pursuing a graduate program and full-time employment

    Austin Morales, now abroad

    Breanna Borg

    Lauren Lowes, now a DO student at Michigan State University

    Daed Daher, undergraduate student at Wayne State University

    Violet Zhou, now Research Assistant at University of Michigan

    Pelli Mechnikov, now Research Assistant at Michigan State University

    Saurav Singh, now an intern at a law firm

  • Affiliated Groups

    Collaborators & community partners

    Science Policy Network-Detroit

    Co-founded by THINK lab members Breanna, Saurav, Shreya, and Dr. Marusak

    BrainSTEM podcast

    Hosted by Dr. Marusak and produced by Amanpreet and Manmeet Bhogal

    Kids Kicking Cancer

    International nonprofit organization

    Detroit Trauma Project

    PI: Tanja Jovanovic, Ph.D.

    TNP2 Lab

    PI: Christine Rabinak, Ph.D.

    MR Research Facility

    Wayne State Core Facility

    The Drug Lab

    Drs. Mark Greenwald & Leslie Lundahl

    Pediatric Hematology/Oncology

    Division Chief: Jeffrey Taub, M.D., F.A.A.P.

    Behavioral and Field Research Core

    Scientific Director: Felicity Harper, Ph.D.

    Adolescent Relationships in Context Lab

    PI: Hannah Schacter, Ph.D.

    Pediatric Epilepsy Surgery Program

    Medical Director: Aimee Luat, M.D.

    Wayne Pediatrics

    Chief Medical Officer: Christopher Youngman, M.D.

    Center for Health & Community Impact

    Asst. Professor of Community Health: Jeanne Barcelona, Ph.D.


    The THINK team in the lab and in the community!

    Brain Day


    THINK lab members volunteered at Brain Day at the Michigan Science Center.

    THINK Lab members


    Passing out resources and gun locks at the 11th precinct in Detroit

    Washington, D.C.


    Dr. Marusak advocating for federal research funding for neuroscience on behalf of the ACNP and SFN

    School visits


    In partnership with Kids Kicking Cancer

    THINK lab students at the Celebration of Life


    For pediatric cancer patients and survivors



    Dr. Maruask high-fiving a child who completed one of our neuroimaging studies

    Therapeutic Techniques for the 21st Century: Pediatric Psychosocial & Palliative Care


    Dr. Marusak discussing the impact of stress and trauma on the brain and the benefit of martial-arts based meditative techniques

    Celebration of Life


    For pediatric cancer patients and survivors



    A child superhero participating in one of our EEG studies

    Brain Day


    Drs. Marusak and Rabinak in a panel about women in science at the Michigan Science Center

    Virtual reality


    A child completing our virtual reality task

    Celebration of Life


    For pediatric cancer patients and survivors

  • Resources

    We have compiled a list of resources for families living in the Detroit area, including healthcare, employment, support groups, and much more. Click the below button to access.

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    Tolan Park Medical Building 3901 Chrysler Service Drive, Suite 2B
    Detroit, MI 48201



  • Research Support

    We are thankful for research support from various funders. Our current research is supported by the National Institute of Mental Health, the American Public Health Association, the Children's Foundation, the WSU Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences, the NIH/NIEHS CURES P30 Center, and the WSU Office of the Provost.