Susan Rivera, Ph.D.

 Susan  Rivera, Ph.D.


  • Professor
  • Psychology

Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience/Developmental Disorders

Research Summary

Susan Rivera heads a program of research that is devoted to investigating neurocognitive development in both typically and atypically developing individuals, specifically those with fragile X syndrome, autism and Down syndrome. She uses psychophysical (infrared eye tracking) as well as functional (fMRI and ERP) and structural (DTI, volumetric measurement) techniques.  Her research is focused broadly on three topics: the functions of the parietal lobe of the brain (e.g., arithmetic, spatial reasoning, visual awareness of objects in space and multisensory integration); functions of the limbic system as is relates to social anxiety; and investigations of a neurodegenerative disease associated with the fragile X premuation (FXTAS).

Select Publications

Wang, J.Y., Hessl, D.H., Hagerman, R.J., Tassone, F. and Rivera, S.M. (in press). Age-dependent structural connectivity effects in fragile X premutation. Archives of Neurology.Farzin, F., Rivera, S.M.  & Whitney, D. (2011). Resolution of spatial and temporal visual attention in infants with fragile X syndrome. Brain, 134(11), 3355–3368.

Hessl, D., Wang, J.M., Schneider, A., Koldewyn, K., Le, L. Iwahashi, C., Tassone, F., Hagerman, P.J. and Rivera, S.M. (2011). Decreased fragile X mental retardation protein expression underlies amygdale dysfunction in carriers of the fragile X premutation. Biological Psychiatry, 70(9), 859–865.

Selmeczy, D., Koldewyn, K., Wang, J.M., Lee, A.,  Harvey, D., Hessl, D.R., Tassone, F., Adams, P., Hagerman, R.J., Hagerman, P.J. and Rivera, S.M. (2011). Investigation of amygdala volume in men with the fragile X premutation.  Brain Imaging and Behavior, 5(4), 285-294.

Goodrich-Hunsaker, N.J., Wong, L.M., McLennan, Y., Tassone, F., Harvey, D., Rivera, S.M. and Simon, T.J. (2011). Adult female fragile X premutation carriers exhibit age- and CGG repeat length-related impairments on an attentionally-based enumeration task. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 5, 63.

Farzin, F., Rivera, S.M., and Whitney, D. (2011). Time crawls: The temporal resolution of infants’ visual attention. Psychological Science, 22(8), 1004-1010.

Farzin, F., Rivera, S.M., and Whitney, D.W. (2010). Spatial resolution of infant visual attention. Pscyhological Science, 21, doi: 10.1177/0956797610382787.

Hashimoto, R., Backer, K., Hagerman, R. and Rivera, S.M. (2010). Deficient Activity of the Prefrontal Cortex during the Performance of a Working Memory Task in Premutation Carriers of the Fragile X Mental Retardation-1 Gene With and Without Fragile X-Associated Tremor/Ataxia Syndrome (FXTAS). Journal of Psychiatric Research. . ePub ahead of print doi:10.1016/j.jpsychires.2010.04.030.

Rivera, S.M., Stebbins, G.T and Grigsby, J. (2010). Radiological findings in FXTAS. In F. Tassone and E. Berry-Kravis (Eds), The fragile X Tremor Ataxia Syndrome. New York: Springer.

Farzin, F. and Rivera, S.M. (2010). Dynamic object representations in infants with and without fragile X syndrome. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 4:12, doi:10.3389/neuro.09.012.2010.

Adams, P.E., Adams, J.S., Nguyen, D.V., Hessl, D., Brunberg, J.A., Tassone, F., Zhang, W., Koldewyn, K., Rivera, S.M., Grigsby, J., Zhang, L., DeCarli, C., Hagerman, P.J., and Hagerman, R.J. (2009). Psychological symptoms correlate with reduced hippocampal volume in fragile X premutation carriers. American Journal of Medical Genetics, 153B(3), 775 – 785.

Koldewyn, K., Whitney, D. and Rivera, S.M. (2009). The psychophysics of visual motion processing in autism. Brain. ePub ahead of print DOI:10.1093/brain/awp272.

Farzin, F., Charles, E.C., and Rivera, S.M. (2009). Development of multimodal numerical processing in infancy. Infancy, 14(5), 563-578.

Losin, E.A.R., Rivera, S.M., O’Hare, E.D., Sowell, E.R., and Pinter, J.D. (2009). Abnormal fMRI activation pattern during story listening in Down syndrome. American Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 114(5), 369–380.

Farzin, F., Rivera, S.M., Whitney, D. (2009). Holistic crowding of Mooney faces. Journal of Vision, 9(6), Article 18, 1-15.

Farzin, F., Rivera, S.M., Whitney, D. (2009). Holistic crowding of Mooney faces. Journal of Vision, 9(6), Article 18, 1-15.

Farzin, F., Rivera, S.M., and Hessl, D.L.(2009). Visual processing of faces in individuals with fragile X syndrome: An eye tracking study. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 39 (6) 946-952.

Corbett, B.A., Carmean, V., Ravizza, S., Wendelken, C., Henry, M.L., Carter, C. and Rivera, S.M. (2009). A functional and structural study of emotion and face processing in children with autism. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, 173, 196–205.

Koldewyn, K., Hessl, D., Adams, J., Tassone, F., Hagerman, R.J., Hagerman, P.J., and Rivera, S.M. (2008). Reduced hippocampal activation during recall is associated with elevated FMR1 mRNA and psychiatric symptoms in men with the fragile X premutation. Brain Imaging and Behavior, 2(2): 105-116.

Farzin, F., Whitney, D. and Rivera, S.M. (2008). Contrast Detection in Infants with Fragile X Syndrome. Vision Research, 48(13), 1471-1478.

Rivera, S.M. & Reiss, A.L. (2008). From genes to brain to behavior: The case of fragile X Syndrome. In J. Rumsey & M. Ernst (Eds.), Neuroimaging in Developmental Clinical Neuroscience. Cambridge University Press.

Hagerman, R.J., Rivera, S.M., and Hagerman, P.J. (2008). The fragile X family of disorders: A model for autism and targeted treatments. Current Pediatric Reviews, 4(1), 40-52.

Nordahl, C.W., Dierker, D., Mostafavi, I., Schumann, C.M., Rivera, S.M., Amaral, D.G., and Van Essen, D.C. (2007). Cortical folding abnormalities in children with autism revealed by surface-based morphometry. Journal of Neuroscience, 27(43),11725-11735.

Simon, T.J., and Rivera, S.M. (2007). Neuroanatomical Approaches to the Study of Mathematical Ability and Disability. In D. B. Berch & M. M. M. Mazzocco (Eds.), Why is Math So Hard for Some Children? The Nature and Origins of Mathematical Learning Difficulties and Disabilities. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.

Hessl, D.H., Rivera, S.M., Koldewyn, K. Cordeiro, L., Adams, J., Tassone, F., Hagerman, P.J. and Hagerman, R.J. (2007). Amygdala dysfunction in men with the fragile X premutation. Brain,130 (2), 404-16.


Department of Psychology

Center for Mind and Brain

M.I.N.D. Institute

Neuroscience Graduate Group

Human Development Graduate Group