Rayna Hirst, PhD

Rayna Hirst Faculty at Palo Alto University headshot


Director, Neuropsychology Program 
Associate Professor

Contact Information:

(650) 417-2025

Other Positions:

Core Faculty


PhD Program


Postdoctoral Fellowship in Neuropsychology, Dartmouth Geisel School of Medicine (2012)
Internship in Clinical Psychology, VA Ann Arbor/University of Michigan Healthcare System (2010)
PhD Clinical Psychology, University at Albany, SUNY (2010)
MA Clinical Psychology, University at Albany, SUNY (2008)
BA Psychology, Penn State University (2005)


Dr. Rayna Hirst's BRAIN lab (Behavioral Research and Assessment In Neuropsychology) conducts research in brain-behavior relationships and neuropsychological assessment. Current research topics include the influence of chronic marijuana use on cognition, the neuropsychological effects of sport-related concussion, and factors that influence the valid and reliable neuropsychological assessment of patients. Dr. Hirst’s research has focused on factors that can impact the legitimacy of clinical neuropsychological assessment, such as the examinee’s motivation to perform well; she has identified motivational statements that can enhance cognitive performance in chronic marijuana users. Her research also identified that most people can guess, at levels significantly greater than chance, whether a photograph is of a cannabis user or a non-user, simply based on appearance – a phenomenon she refers to as the “jay-dar”.

As Dr. Hirst is interested in all topics related to neuropsychological performance (e.g., memory impairment, executive dysfunction), as well as the clinical process of neuropsychological assessment (e.g., standards of practice in using effort testing during assessment), she is also open to exploring diverse research ideas with students in her research lab.

Dr. Hirst completed her undergraduate education at Penn State University, and worked in the Neuropsychology Lab with Dr. Peter Arnett and Dr. Frank Hillary on the Penn State Concussion Study. She completed her M.A. and Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology at the University at Albany, SUNY, with a focus on Neuropsychology and Addictions with Dr. Mitch Earleywine. Her predoctoral internship in psychology/neuropsychology was completed at the VA Ann Arbor/University of Michigan Healthcare System, under the supervision of Dr. Kenneth Adams, Dr. Linas Bieliauskas, and Dr. Henry Buchtel. She completed her postdoctoral fellowship at Dartmouth Medical School in the Brain Imaging Lab, and worked with Dr. Laura Flashman, Dr. Robert Roth, and Dr. Heather Wishart.

In her spare time, Dr. Hirst enjoys global travel (the farther away, the better!), running, hiking, skiing, cooking, music, and adventuring with her husband and daughter.

Areas of Interest:

Neuropsychological Assessment, Validity Testing, Learning and Memory, Aging and Health Effects on Cognition, Sport-Related Concussion, Substance Use/Abuse

Selected Publications:

Hirst, R. B. & Thompson, R. C.*, Markiv, Y.*, Pilavjian, H.*, Arastu, S. F.*, & Markuson, S. M.* (in press). A Survey of Doctoral Internships Offering Clinical Neuropsychology Training: Updated Expectations for Competitive Applicants. Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology. Published online ahead of print, DOI: 10.1093/arclin/acab081

Enriquez, R.*, Hirst, R. B., Rosen, A.* (in press). Childhood religious affiliation type is associated with alcohol, but not cannabis use in adults. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs. Published online ahead of print, DOI: 10.1080/02791072.2021.1968082

Rose, S. M. S.-F., Bott, N., Heinemeyer, E., Hantke, N., Gould, C., Hirst, R. B., Jordan, J., Beaudreau, S., & O’Hara, R. (2021). Depression, health comorbidities, cognitive symptoms, and their functional impact: Not just a geriatric problem. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 139, 185-192. DOI: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2021.05.013

Eloi, J. M., Lee, J., Pollock, E. N., Tayim, F. M., Holcomb, M. J., Hirst, R. B., Tocco, C., Towns, S. J., Lichenstein, J. D., Roth, R. M. (2021). Boston Naming Test: Lose the Noose. Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology, 36(8), 1465-1472. DOI: 10.1093/arclin/acab017

Hirst, R. B., Vaughn, D.*, Arastu, S.*, Deneen, A.*, & Pilavjian, H.* (2021). Female sex as a protective factor in the effects of chronic cannabis use on verbal learning and memory. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, 27(6), 581-591. DOI: 10.1017/S1355617721000217

            * Selected for Editor’s Choice for JINS CE credit

Erdodi, L., Hurtubise, J., Brantuo, M., Cutler, L., Kennedy, A., & Hirst, R. B. (2020). Old vs. new: The classic and D-KEFS Trails as embedded performance validity indicators and measures of psychomotor speed/executive function. Archives of Assessment Psychology, 10(1), 45-69.

Hirst, R.B., Jordan, J. T.*, Rose, S.M.S.-F., Schneider, L., Kawai, M., Gould, C., Anker, L., Beaudreau, S., Hallmayer, J., O’Hara, R. (2020). The 5-HTTLPR Long, not Short, Allele Predicts Two-year Longitudinal Increases in Cortisol and Declines in Verbal Memory in Older Adults. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 35(9), 982-988. DOI: 10.1002/gps.5319 

Hirst, R.B., Deneen, A., Markuson, S., Vaughn, D., Teague, A., Haas, A. (2020). Bell Ringers: Concussion problems in youth football players. Atlas of Science.  https://atlasofscience.org/bell-ringers-concussion-problems-in-youth-football-players/

Watson, J., Brown, C., Hirst, R. B., & Thompson, R. (2020). Commonality in Abnormality: “Abnormal” neuropsychological scores are common in baseline testing of youth athletes. Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology.

Teague, A. M. & Hirst, R. B. (2019). Rey 15 Item Test Plus Recognition Trial and TOMM in a Community Pediatric Sample. Applied Neuropsychology: Child. DOI: 10.1080/21622965.2019.1709068

Newkirk, L. A., Dao, V. L., Jordan, J. T., Alving, L. I., Davies, H. D., Hewett, L., Beaudreau, S. A., Schneider, L. D., Gould, C. E., Chick, C. F., Hirst, R. B., Schussler-Fiorenza Rose, S. M., Anker, L. A., Tinklenberg, J. R., & O’Hara, R. (2019). Factors associated with supportive care service use among California Alzheimer’s disease patients and their caregivers. Journal of Alzheimer Disease. DOI: 10.3233/JAD-190438

Hantke, N., Lajoy, M., Goule, C.E., Magwene, E.M., Sordahl, J., Hirst, R.B., and O’Hara, R. (2019). Patient satisfaction with geriatric psychiatry services via video teleconference. American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. DOI: 10.1016/j.jagp.2019.08.020

Bhowmick, C., Hirst, R. B., & Green, P. (2019). A Comparison of the Word Memory Test and the Test of Memory Malingering in Detecting Invalid Performance in Neuropsychological Testing. Applied Neuropsychology: Child. DOI: 10.1080/23279095.2019.1658585

Hirst, R. B., Haas, A., Teague, A., Whittington, L. T., & Taylor, E. (2019). Bell ringers: Factors related to concussive events in youth playing tackle football. Journal of Pediatric Health Care, 33(1), 14-25. DOI: 10.1016/j.pedhc.2018.05.009

Verroulx, K., Hirst, R. B., Lin, G., & Peery, S. (2019). An embedded effort indicator for children: California Verbal Learning Test – Children’s Edition, Forced Choice. Applied Neuropsychology: Child, 8(3), 206-212. DOI: 10.1080/21622965.2018.1426463

Hirst, R. B., Watson, J., Rosen, A., & Quittner, Z. (2018). Perceptions of the cognitive effects of cannabis use: A survey of neuropsychologists’ beliefs. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, 41(2), 133-146. DOI: 10.1080/13803395.2018.1503644

Hirst, R. B., Conaboy, C., Vaughn, D. W., Enriquez, R. H., & Wickham, R. (2018). The “Jay-dar” phenomenon: Individuals discriminate cannabis users from non-users based upon a photograph. Substance Use and Misuse, 53(14), 2359-2367. DOI: 10.1080/10826084.2018.1474228

Rosen, A., Sodos, L., Hirst, R. B., Vaughn, D., & Lorkiewicz, S. (2018). Cream of the crop: Clinical representativeness of research eligible and ineligible cannabis users. Substance Use and Misuse, 53(12), 1937-1950. DOI: 10.1080/10826084.2018.1441312

Erdodi, L., A., Hurtubise, J., Charron, C., Dunn, A., Enache, A., McDermott, A., & Hirst, R. B. (2018). The D-KEFS Trails as performance validity tests.  Psychological Assessment, 30(8), 1082-1095. DOI: 10.1037/pas0000561

Sodos, L. M., Hirst, R. B., Watson, J., Vaughn, D. (2018). Don’t judge a book by its cover: Examiner expectancy effects predict neuropsychological performance for participants judged as chronic cannabis users. Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology. DOI: 10.1093/arclin/acx114

Gould, C. E., Karna, R., Jordan, J., Kawai, M., Hirst, R. B., Hantke, N., Pirog, S., Cotto, I., Beaudreau, S. A., & O’Hara, R. (2018). Subjective, but not objective sleep is associated with subsyndromal anxiety and depression in community-dwelling older adults. American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 26(7), 806-811. DOI: 10.1016/j.jagp.2018.03.010

Hirst, R. B., Beard, C., Colby, K., Quittner, Z., Mills, B., & Lavender, J. (2017). Anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa: A meta-analysis of executive functioning. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 83, 678-690. DOI: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2017.08.011

Hirst, R. B., Han, C., Teague, A., Rosen, A., Gretler, J., & Quittner, Z. (2017). Adherence to validity testing recommendations in neuropsychological assessment: A survey of NAN and INS members. Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology, 32(4), 456-471. DOI: 10.1093/arclin/acx009

Hirst, R. B., Enriquez, R., Wickham, R. E., Gretler, J., Sodos, L. M., Gade, S. A., Rathke, L. K., Denson, T. F., & Earleywine, M. (2017). Marijuana stereotypes and the “jay-dar”: Perceptions of cannabis use and memory abilities based upon appearance. Personality and Individual Differences, 110, 131-138. DOI: 10.1016/j.paid.2016.12.056

Hirst, R. B., Young, K., Sodos, L., Wickham, R. E. & Earleywine, M. (2016). Trying to remember: Effort mediates the relationship between frequency of cannabis use and memory performance. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, 39(5), 502-512.  DOI: 10.1080/13803395.2016.1237617

Hirst, R. B., Teague, A., Sodos, L., Wickham, R. E., Whittington, L. T., Mills, B., & Earleywine, M. (2016). Determining cannabis use status from a photograph: An assessment of the “Jay-dar” in neuropsychologists. Substance Use and Misuse, 52(3), 401-410. DOI: 10.1080/10826084.2016.1233564

Kawai, M., Beaudreau, S. A., Gould, C. E., Hantke, N. C., Cotto, I., Jordan, J. T., Hirst, R. B., & O’Hara, R. O. (2016). Longitudinal association of delta activity at sleep onset with cognitive and affective function in community-dwelling older adults. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 31(10), 1124-35. DOI: 10.1002/gps.4554

Haas, A. L., Wickham, R., Macia, K., Shields, M., Macher, R. B. & Schulte, T. (2015). Identifying classes of conjoint alcohol and marijuana use in entering freshmen. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 29(3), 620-626. DOI:10.1037/adb0000089

Macher, R. B., & Earleywine, M. (2012). Enhancing neuropsychological performance in chronic cannabis users: The role of motivation. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, 34(4), 405-415. DOI:10.1080/13803395.2011.646957

Sutherland, M. E., & Ericson, R. (2010).  Alcohol use, abuse, and treatment in people of African descent.  Journal of Black Studies, 41(1); 71-88. DOI: 10.1177/0021934708331169

Websites and Other Relevant Links:

Behavioral Research and Assessment in Neuropsychology (BRAIN) Research Lab