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Home › Graduate › Ph.D. Clinical Psychology › Research Labs › Behavioral Research and Assessment in Neuropsychology

Behavioral Research and Assessment in Neuropsychology (BRAIN) Lab

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Dr. Rayna Hirst


Research Programs: PAU Sport Concussion Study

Topics: This group focuses on research in neuropsychology and clinical 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.

These research projects allow students to gain a significant amount of neuropsychological assessment experience and training hours, as well as develop research skills in writing literature reviews, design a study, recruit subjects and administer tests, enter data, conduct statistical analyses, present at professional conferences, and write manuscripts. Students will be encouraged to conduct their own research projects and compete for student awards and grants. Co- and first-authorship on manuscripts is encouraged. This training is aimed to help the student become a more independent researcher, with the goal of conducting original research and data collection for his/her dissertation project.


Openings: 3 new members to join the lab in April 2017.


How to Apply:

Admission to the lab is dependent upon goodness of fit of the applicant’s research interests with the lab’s ongoing research, academic merit of the applicant, and professionalism of the applicant. Interested PAU students are asked to submit the following items to Dr. Hirst by the PAU Research Group Application due date:

·       One or two page cover letter describing past research experience, how and why the student became interested in neuropsychology/assessment, a list of specific current ongoing projects he/she would like to contribute to, and a description of additional specific research or clinical interests in neuropsychology and assessment 

·       Curriculum vitae

·       Unofficial transcript

·       A writing sample (e.g., a paper submitted for a graduate-level course) 

Notification: Students accepted into the group will be notified by email at the PAU Research Group Notification date and time. 


Current Members:                                                                                                 

Admitted 2013:

Richard Enriquez (

Julie Gretler (

Ceci Han ( - Ceci is a fifth year graduate student originally from Macau. She has been a research assistant at the BRAIN lab since 2013. Her language proficiency includes English, Mandarin, and Cantonese. She is interested in neuropsychological evaluation among adult substance users, as well as test motivation and effort evaluation in neuropsychological assessments.

Anna Teague (

(Lauren) Taighlor Whittington (

Admitted 2014:

Katrina Colby ( – Katrina is currently a 4th year Clinical Psychology PhD student with an emphasis in Neuropsychology. Her interests reside in neuropsychological assessment within a forensic setting. Her current research examines executive functioning deficits in individuals with eating disorders, serious mental illness, and substance use disorders.

Zoe Quittner (

Alexis Rosen ( – Alexis is a fourth-year student pursuing an emphasis in neuropsychology. Her primary area of research involves the effects of cannabis on cognitive functioning. She also hopes to investigate topics relevant to neuropsychology within the context of the criminal justice system.

Admitted 2015:

Casey Conaboy (

Admitted 2016:

Colin Brown (

Rachel Santiago ( - Rachel is a second-year student in the neuropsychology emphasis. She is interested in working with the older adult population, Veterans, and individuals with brain injuries.

Jessica Watson ( - Jessica is currently a second-year Clinical Psychology PhD student with an emphasis in Neuropsychology. She received her BS in Statistics and a minor in Psychology from Cal Poly and is passionate about the importance of producing clinically meaningful research. She is primarily interested in effort testing and neuropsychological assessments within a pediatric population. She hopes to provide psychological and educational support to children, adolescents, and young adults through the use of assessments.

Dylan Vaughn ( – Dylan graduated from Pacific University with a Bachelors of Science in Psychology with an emphasis in neuroscience. He is a second-year PhD student pursuing an emphasis in neuropsychology. Currently, he is working on two projects within the BRAIN Lab: the neurocognitive effects of cannabis use and the long-term effects of sport-related concussions in child/adolescent populations.


Past Members:

Admitted 2012:

Stephanie Gade (

Laura Rathke

Louise Sodos, Ph.D. ( - Louise graduated from PAU in 2016 after completing her internship at Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC). She is now completing a clinical psychology post-doc at BAMC.



1791 Arastradero Road
Palo Alto, CA 94304

Phone: (800) 818-6136 Fax: (650) 433-3888





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