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Marlen

Gonzalez

Assistant Professor
G340 MVR
Ithaca, New York
Human Development

Biography

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.