Marlen Gonzalez
Marlen Gonzalez
Assistant Professor

T227 Martha Van Rensselaer Hall


I am originally from the Dominican Republic, but have spent most of my life in different boroughs of NYC and in Connecticut. In 2018, I completed my clinical psychology internship and I received my degree in Psychology from the University of Virginia. My clinical interests inform and inspire, but are secondary to my work on human neuroscience. 

The overarching theme of my research is on how developmental context (its physical and social affordances) shapes our brains into their adult form. I conceive of development as likened to clay being placed in a mold to achieve a shape that is suited to that mold. Our genes are the clay, the mold our environments, and the produced form is our phenotypes. But what if our adult environment is far different from the one that molded us? Are some of us made of more pliable or stiffer clay than others? What specific parts of our developmental context help neural plasticity and to what end? Up until now my work has indicated that neighborhood quality in adolescence and lower economic privilege coincide with increased neural vigilance and reward sensitivity, but these effects are moderated by molecular difference in the Oxytocin Receptor Gene -- a gene deeply involved in our social development. Future work will apply these and new models using Life History Theory to predict specific neural phenotypes and health outcomes. 

How does the brain instantiate physical and social nutrients and what does this mean for metabolic disorders?

How does access to economic and social resources in childhood shape adult neural endophenotypes?


What genetic and epigenetic factors moderate environmentally derived neuroplasticity?


How do adult social and motivational endophenotypes predict real-world coping strategies and health outcomes?


How can we improve upon our measures to serve our theoretical and empirical work?

I approach teaching and advising from a student-centered approach inspired by Pedagogy of the Oppressed. My role as an educator is to nurture students interests while scaffolding their development. This attunement to the individual student further makes considerations of diversity and inclusion part of the fabric of teaching and advising instead of an add-on. This means attunement to them as individuals and attunement to them as young scholars within a unique context. I've received very positive feedback from my students who also feel free to co-create the pedagogical experience with me. 

HD 4630: Introduction to functional MRI analysis in human neuroimaging

HD 6635: Introduction to scripting for functional MRI analysis in human neuroimaging



Journal Article Refereed




Gonzalez, M.Z, Coppolla, A., Allen, J.P., Coan, J.A. (in review). Yielding to social support:Associations with self-regulation in brain and behavior. Social Neuroscience.

2. Gonzalez, M.Z, Allen, J.P., Coan, J.A, Connelly, J.J. (in review). Developmental Calibration of Adult Neural Reward Sensitivity: The Moderating Role of Oxytocin Receptor GeneMethylation. Developmental Psychobiology.



International Society for Developmental Psychobiology

Association for Psychological Science

American Psychological Association

Society for a Science of Clinical Psychology

Social Affective Neuroscience Society

Society for Psychophysiological Research

Society for Affective Science

Developmental Affective Neuroscience Symposium

LIFE Program, International Max Planck Research School




Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience (ad hoc reviewer since 2014)

Frontiers in Neuroscience (ad hoc reviewer since 2015)

International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine (ad hoc reviewer since 2017)

2018, Clinical Psychology Predoctoral Internship, Charleston Consortium Internship Program, Charleston, SC

2018, Ph.D., Psychology, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA

2013, M.A., Psychology, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA

2008, B.A., Summa Cum Laude, Psychology, Manhattanville College, Purchase, NY 

View all people