Martha G. Welch, MD, has been promoted to Professor of Psychiatry at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center, where she currently also serves as Director of the Nurture Science Program (NSP). NSP is a leading research group that brings together neurobiology, psychiatry, behavioral coding, and gut physiology to study the mechanisms and benefits of emotional connection.
“It is an honor and a privilege to be part of the Columbia University medical community,” Dr. Welch says. “I owe so much to my Columbia mentors and colleagues who supported me first as a medical student, and again when I returned to Columbia to pursue research, and launch the Nurture Science Program to translate my findings into clinical care.”
Dr. Welch’s breakthrough research at Columbia University has advanced understanding of early development, gut hormonal signaling, and the visceral brain. Her major contributions—Hormones of Nurture, Calming Cycle Theory, Family Nurture Care, and Welch Emotional Connection Screen—provide the scientific foundation for life-changing protocols and tools, which she has developed with the Nurture Science Program team and tested through clinical research in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and with preschool families.
Hormones of Nurture – Dr. Welch’s research has established that two hormones—oxytocin and secretin—play a critical role in gut-brain signaling and function, including gut development, barrier function, and reduction of inflammation.
Calming Cycle Theory – In Calming Cycle Theory, Dr. Welch has described a clinically observable four-phase process through which two people calm each other using activities of nurture and emotional exchange: from separate distress to mutual distress, mutual resolution of discomfort, and ultimately, to mutual calm. This theory links co-calming to the underlying physiological process of body-to-body autonomic co-regulation.
Family Nurture Care – Family Nurture Care evokes mother-child emotional expression via evidence-based practices, producing dramatic and lasting positive developmental and emotional-behavioral effects. This approach has been validated through randomized control trials in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). In these studies, a group of mothers and babies received Family Nurture Intervention (FNI), and their outcomes were compared to mothers and babies who received standard care.
The Welch Emotional Connection Screen – Dr. Welch and her team developed and validated the Welch Emotional Connection Screen (WECS) – a fast, predictive, and actionable clinical tool to measure the behaviors of co-regulation. Where other behavioral and relational health assessments look only at individuals, clinicians and researchers can use this screen to evaluate observable behaviors between two people.
“I so appreciate the support Columbia has provided for this important work,” says Dr. Welch. “We have set the stage for a new paradigm of relational health: one based on the crucial role our bodies play in regulating each other. When we co-calm, we can learn, bridge, share, cooperate, and build.”