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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

Email: rhirst@paloaltou.edu

Research Programs: PAU Sport Concussion Study

TopicsThis lab 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 validity testing during assessment), she is also open to exploring diverse research ideas with students in her research lab. 

Instagram Handle: @PAUBrainLab

Facebook: www.facebook.com/brainlabpau/

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, designing a study, recruiting subjects and administering tests, entering data, conducting statistical analyses, presenting at professional conferences, and writing 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 students become a more independent researcher, with the goal of conducting original research and data collection for their dissertation projects.


Openings: 3 new members to join the lab in April 2018.


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 Lab 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 Lab Notification date and time. 

Current Members:                                                                                                 

Admitted 2013:

Julie Gretler (jgretler@paloaltou.edu) - Julie is currently completing her predoctoral internship at the University of Missouri. Her clinical interests include neurorehabilitation and neuropsychological assessment across the life span. Her BRAIN lab involvement includes studies related to performance validity testing, chronic marijuana use, and cognition.

(Lauren) Taighlor Whittington (lwhittington@paloaltou.edu)

Admitted 2014:

Katrina Colby (kcolby@paloaltou.edu) – Katrina is a fifth-year Clinical Psychology PhD student at PAU and has completed the Neuropsychology area of emphasis.  Her primary area of research integrates neuropsychological and forensic assessment in individuals’ with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She has published research on the assessment of executive functioning in eating disorders and hopes to expand this research to substance use populations.  Katrina has worked with diverse populations of children, adolescents, adults and elderly adults and has experience conducting neuropsychological assessments and therapy in individual, couples and group settings. Currently, she is completing her dissertation which examines competence to stand trial, effort, and malingering in pre-adjudicated criminal defendants with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  In the future, she aspires to complete her postdoctoral fellowship in Forensic Neuropsychology and eventually work as a Clinical Forensic Neuropsychologist.

Zoe Quittner (zquittner@paloaltou.edu)

Alexis Rosen (arosen@paloaltou.edu) – Alexis is a fifth-year Clinical Psychology PhD student at PAU and has completed the Neuropsychology Area of Emphasis. Her primary area of research involves the effects of chronic cannabis use on cognitive functioning. She is also interested in validity testing and has investigated validity testing practices among a sample of national and international neuropsychologists. In the future, she hopes to investigate topics at the intersection of neuropsychology and forensic psychology.

Admitted 2015:

Casey Conaboy (cconaboy@paloaltou.edu) Casey is a fourth-year student in the Clinical Psychology PhD program at PAU and has completed the Neuropsychology Area of Emphasis. Casey is primarily involved in the Sport Concussion Study and is interested in the influence that different identities (e.g., socioeconomic status) may have on risk levels regarding concussion and recovery.

Admitted 2016:

Colin Brown (cbrown1@paloaltou.edu) Colin is a third-year student in the neuropsychology emphasis. He is interested in working with active military personnel, veterans, athletes, and individuals who have sustained traumatic brain injuries. Colin is currently working on a project examining parents’ and coaches’ knowledge and attitudes pertaining to sport related concussions.

Rachel Santiago (rsantiago@paloaltou.edu) - Rachel is a third-year student in the neuropsychology emphasis. She is interested in working with the older adult population, Veterans, and individuals with brain injuries. Rachel is primarily involved in the Sport Concussion study and is currently working on a case study manuscript examining cognitive performance subsequent to multiple concussions.

Jessica Watson (jwatson@paloaltou.edu) - Jessica graduated from Cal Poly with a Bachelors of Science in Statistics, and a minor in Psychology. She is currently a third-year Clinical Psychology PhD student with an emphasis in Neuropsychology. She has published research related to examiner expectancy effects and neuropsychological performance in individuals judged as chronic cannabis users. Her current research is primarily focused on the lab’s pediatric sport concussion program. Specifically, her dissertation is utilizing this pediatric sample to investigate the frequency of “abnormal” scores in various neuropsychological tests. Jessica hopes this research will differentiate statistical significance from clinical significance.

Dylan Vaughn (dvaughn@paloaltou.edu) – Dylan graduated from Pacific University with a Bachelors of Science in Psychology with an emphasis in neuroscience. He is a third-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. He has published research on expectancy effects as it relates to performance on neuropsychological evaluations in cannabis users and plans to continue this line of research as well as other topics related to cannabis use in general. Currently, he is working on his dissertation examining the role of gender on neurocognitive performance in cannabis users.

Admitted 2017:

Naomi Kaswan (nkaswan@paloaltou.edu) - Naomi graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara with a Bachelors of Science in Biopsychology, and a minor in Applied Psychology. She is currently a second-year PhD student pursuing an emphasis in neuropsychology. Naomi’s interests include neuropsychological assessment and treatment trajectories in children with a variety of neurological presentations and brain injuries. Naomi is currently involved with both the sports concussion and cannabis research produced by the BRAIN Lab. Her most recent work has been focused on functional marijuana use.

Felipe Granados (fgranados@paloaltou.edu) - Felipe graduated from California State University, Stanislaus, with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. He is currently a second-year Ph.D. student pursuing an emphasis in neuropsychology. Felipe’s interests include neuropsychological assessment in English and Spanish, and neurodegenerative disorders. Felipe is currently involved with both the sports concussion and cannabis study research projects being conducted by the BRAIN lab.


Past Members:

Admitted 2013:

Richard Enriquez (renriquez@paloaltou.edu)- Richard is a sixth-year Ph.D. doctoral student in Clinical Psychology and has completed the Diversity and Community Mental Health emphasis at Palo Alto University. He is currently completing his predoctoral internship at San Jose State University and has been accepted as a postdoctoral resident at University of California Santa Cruz. Richard’s clinical interests are in working with diverse populations, college setting, and with mood disorders, anxiety disorders, and substance use and abuse. His research interest includes investigating raters accuracy to assess cannabis use status, observer-expectancy effects in cannabis user population, and protective factors related to the initiation and problematic use of cannabis.

Cecilia Han (shan@paloaltou.edu) - Ceci is a sixth-year student originally from Macau. She is currently completing her predoctoral internship at NYU Rusk Rehabilitation. Her clinical interests include adult neuropsychology and rehabilitation psychology. She has been a research assistant at the BRAIN lab since 2013. Her language proficiency includes English, Mandarin, and Cantonese. Her involvement in the BRAIN lab includes studies regarding neuropsychological evaluation among adult substance users, as well as test motivation and effort evaluation in neuropsychological assessments.

Anna Teague (ateague@paloaltou.edu) - Anna is currently completing her predoctoral internship at the Washington DC VA Medical Center. Her clinical interests include neuropsychological assessment of adults with neurological disorders and cognitive rehabilitation. In the BRAIN lab she conducts research on performance validity testing and sports-related concussion.

Admitted 2012:

Stephanie Gade (stephanies@paloaltou.edu)

Laura Rathke

Louise Sodos, Ph.D. (lsodos@paloaltou.edu) - Louise graduated from PAU in 2016. Her dissertation was “Enhancement of Cognitive Performance in Chronic Cannabis Users: Temporary versus Isolated Effects of a Motivational Statement.” She completed her pre-doctoral internship and post-doctoral fellowship in clinical/military psychology at Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC). She is now an active duty U.S. Army licensed clinical psychologist.






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Palo Alto, CA 94304

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





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