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 environmental adversity on brain and behavioral development in children and adolescents. This includes childhood trauma —such as interpersonal forms of trauma (e.g., violence, peer victimization) and medical-related trauma (e.g., cancer diagnosis, treatments), and also environmental toxicants (e.g., particulate matter air pollution, lead).
    • 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. 
    • Effects of cannabis and cannabinoids on the brain 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 below 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 up to $380. Watch this 2-minute video to learn more about the study. Contact us to get started!

    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).

    Warrior C.A.R.E

    The overall goal of this research program is to understand how cannabis affects mental health in United States armed forces veterans.

    PATH Study

    The Peer Adjustment and Teen Health (PATH) study is being conducted in partnership with Dr. Hannah Schacter's lab (WSU Department of Psychology). This study will examine the impact of social experiences on health of teens, ages 10-17 years.

    BRAINS Study

    Research opportunity for 14-17 yr-olds and one parent/guardian: Help Wayne State researchers learn about the effects of exercise on brain health in healths!

  • Recent Publications

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

    Getting a good night's sleep: Associations between sleep duration and parent-reported sleep quality on default mode network connectivity in youth

    Journal of Adolescent Health (2023)

    Air pollution, depressive and anxiety disorders, and brain effects: A systematic review

    Neurotoxicology (2022)

    Impact of prenatal cannabis exposure on functional connectivity of the salience network in children

    J Neurosci Res (2022)

    Impact of childhood trauma exposure, genetic variation in endocannabinoid signaling, and anxiety on frontolimbic pathways in children

    Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research (2022)

    Meditation reduces brain activity in the default mode network in children with active cancer and survivors

    Pediatric Blood & Cancer (2022)

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

    Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research (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. Julia will be applying to doctoral programs for fall of 2023.

    Research Assistant & Social Media Director


    Aman earned her B.S. in Psychology in 2019 from Wayne State University. Her recent work at the lab has focused on the impact of perceived discrimination regarding sexual orientation on mental health and neurodevelopmental (e.g., brain structure) outcomes. Additionally, Aman has been interested in bridging the communication of research to the lay audience with her creative work in film. Aman will be applying to doctoral programs for fall of 2024.

    Research Assistant & Recruitment Coordinator


    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 Technologist


    Reem is a Computer Science graduate from Wayne State University as of May 2022. She is interested in software development and data analysis. Reem plans to pursue a long-term technical career and obtain a master's degree in data science.

    Neuroscience Ph.D. Student


    Sam attended Albion College where she graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Psychology, concentrating her studies in neuroscience. She is currently a first-year PhD student in the Translational Neuroscience Program at Wayne State University. Her broad research interests include investigating the neurodevelopmental mechanisms of anxiety- and stress-based disorders. Outside of the lab, Sam enjoys painting, photography, hiking, and other outdoor activities.

    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


    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.

    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, Richard Barber Fellow


    Mariya is currently an undergraduate student at Wayne State University majoring in neuroscience and minoring in psychology. She loves to learn about various fields of neuroscience, specifically developmental, cognitive and behavioral. Mariya is also interested in health psychology which ties in with her current research about the effects of exercise, meditation, and stretching on anxiety in youth.

    Research Volunteer, BUILD Scholar


    Carmen is currently a third year undergraduate student at Wayne State University. She is pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree with a major in Psychology and Criminal Justice. She plans to pursue a PhD in Clinical Psychology and ultimately study the mental health of prisoners.

    Research Volunteer, Richard Barber Fellow


    Sarah is currently a senior undergrad student at WSU and in her last semester of her bachelor's degree in Exercise and Sports Science. Additionally, she will begin grad school in the fall to pursue her master’s degree. She also has an associate degree in business and plans on earning 500-hour yoga cert next year. She loves learning and working out. When she is not hitting the books, she is in the gym, doing yoga, or doing research on health and fitness. She also really loves being outdoors. Her favorite pastime is fishing, but she enjoys anything that involves camping, hiking, or being in or by water.

    Research Volunteer


    Jovan is currently a Medical Student at the Wayne State University School of Medicine with an interest in intervention development and translational research. He has a background in mental health research and cognitive development, and is hoping to build and add to this experience while a part of the THINK lab. He hopes to take this experience and leverage it as a clinician in the future developing interventions that can address existing gaps in healthcare.

    Research Volunteer


    Micala is a third year undergraduate student at Wayne State University with a major in Psychology and a minor in Neuroscience. After graduation, she plans to pursue a PhD in Clinical Psychology. Micala is currently a member of the social media team, allowing her to pursue her passion for science communication and making research accessible to the general public.


    The THINK lab takes PhD students through the Translational Neuroscience Program and the Pharmacology Program and may be recruiting a postdoctoral research fellow for Fall 2023. Email Dr. Marusak if interested in a PhD or postdoctoral position.


    We have openings througout the year for volunteer research assistant positions. Click here to apply!


  • Alumni

    Autumm Heeter, undergrad and postbacc student at WSU. Now a medical student at Central Michigan University.

    Mohammed Faraj, MD student at WSU. Now a resident (Emergency Medicine) at Beaumont Trenton/Dearborn.

    Shreya Desai, undergrad student at WSU. Now a MD student at Oakland University.

    Zazai Owens, postbacc student at WSU. Now an MPH student at Harvard University.

    Sarah Haque, undergraduate student at WSU.

    Evelyn Odunayo-Ojo, undergraduate student at WSU.

    Myles Jennings, postbacc student at WSU.

    Rima Maroki, BUILD scholar at WSU.

    Nina Lipanski, undergrad student at UCSB.

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

    Austin Morales, Master's of Science in Biomedical Engineering at WSU. Now abroad.

    Breanna Borg, Master of Public Health.

    Lauren Lowes, DO student at Michigan State University

    Daed Daher, undergrad student at WSU.

    Violet Zhou, postbacc volunter. Now a Research Assistant at University of Michigan

    Pelli Mechnikov, undergrad student at MSU. Now a Research Assistant at Michigan State University

    Saurav Singh, undergrad student at WSU. Now a JD student at WSU.

  • 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. Leslie Lundahl, Mark Greenwald, Eric Woodcock, and Dave Ledgerwood


    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!

    Summer Camp visits


    THINK lab member Leah Gowatch brought the brains to Crowell Recreation Center over the summer.

    Capitol Hill


    Three THINK lab members visit Capitol Hill with Science Policy Network-Detroit to advocate for federal science funding and science-based policies!

    School visits


    THINK lab members visited the Melvindale Medical Club to talk to high school students about the brain.

    Brain Day


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

    Community events


    THINK lab members help pass 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



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

    Celebration of Life


    For pediatric cancer patients and survivors

    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

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