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 Jennifer Willford, Ph.D.  



Dr. Jennifer Willford

Education and Training

Postdoctoral Fellowship Psychiatric Epidemiolgy, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, 2002
Ph.D. Experimental Psychology
, University of Kentucky, 2000
M.S. Experimental Psychology
, University of Kentucky, 1997
B.S. Interdisciplinary Neuroscience
, Muskingum College, 1994 

Current Teaching
PSY 105: Introduction to Psychology
PSY 221: Introduction to Behavioral Statistics
PSY 321: Introduction to Behavioral Neuroscience

Research Interests

My research interests focus on understanding the neurobiological impairments that occur as a result of prenatal drug exposure. Damage to the developing brain is one of the most serious consequences of prenatal drug exposure. My research projects examine the effects of prenatal drug exposure on core cognitive abilities such as working memory, attention, and reward processing, which are integral to more complex cognitive behaviors including executive functions such as planning, cognitive flexibility, and self-regulation. I use both neuropsychological and neuroimaging tools to identify the links between prenatal drug exposure and cognitive deficits.

Current projects include:

  • Prenatal cocaine exposure: Effects on mother and teacher rated behavior problems and growth in school age children
  • Prenatal marijuana exposure predicts IQ test performance in African American offspring at age 14.
  • Prenatal drug effects on attention systems in the brain: fMRI analyses.

A new area of research that I have started to develop focuses on the interactions between immune, mood, and cognitive function in children with chronic medical conditions. This translational work combines neuropsychological testing and brain imaging as well as physiological, neuroimmunological, and genetic tools to understand how disease and emotional states affect cognitive development in children with a chronic medical illness.

Current projects include:

  • Pilot data collection of neuropsychological outcomes in chronically ill children with and without depression.
  • Structural brain imaging analysis of regional brain volumes including prefrontal cortex, hippocampus, and amygdala in chronically ill children with and without depression. This study will evaluate disease load, genetic factors, and gray matter density in the targeted brain regions.


Goldschmidt, L., Richardson, G. Willford, J.A., Severtson S.G., Day, N.L. (2012) School achievement in 14-year-old youths exposed prenatally to marijuana. Neurotoxicology and Teratology, 34(1):161-7.

Willford, J.A., Richardson, G.A., Day, N.L. (2011) Sex-specific effects of prenatal marijuana exposure on neurodevelopment and behavior.  M. Lewis & L. Kestler (Eds.), Gender Differences in Effects of Prenatal Substance Exposure. American Psychological Association, Washington, DC. 

Richardson, G.A., Goldschmidt, L., Leech, S., Willford, J.A. (2011) Prenatal cocaine exposure: Effects on mother and teacher rated behavior problems and growth in school age children. Neurotoxicology and Teratology, 33(1):69-77.

Cornelius, M.D., DeGenna N., Leech, S.L., Willford, J.A., Goldschmidt, L., Day, N.L. (2011) Effects of Prenatal Cigarette Smoke Exposure on Neurobehavioral Outcomes in Ten-Year-Old Children of Teenage Mother. Neurotoxicology and Teratology, 33(1): 137-144.

Willford, J.A. Chandler, L., Goldschmidt L., Day, N.L. (2010) Effects of prenatal tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana exposure on processing speed, visual-motor coordination, and interhemispheric transfer. Neurotoxicology and Teratology, 32(6):579-587.

Willford, J.A., Day, R., Aizenstein, H., Day, N.L. (2010) Caudate asymmetry: a neurobiological marker of moderate prenatal alcohol exposure in young adults.  Neurotoxicology and Teratology, 32(6):588-593.

Richardson, G.A., Goldschmidt, L., Willford, J. (2009) Continued effects of prenatal cocaine use: preschool development. Neurotoxicology and Teratology, 31(6):325-333.

Cornelius, M.D., Goldschmidt, L., Willford, J.A., Leech, S.L., Larkby, C.L., Day, N.L. (2009) Body size and intelligence in 6-year-olds: are offspring of teenage mothers at risk?  Maternal & Child Health Journal, 13(6):847-856.

Richardson, G.A., Goldschmidt L., Willford, J.A.  (2008) The effects of prenatal cocaine use on infant development. Neurotoxicology and Teratology, 30(2):96-106.

Goldschmidt, L., Richardson, G.A., Willford, J.A., Day, N.L. (2008) Prenatal marijuana exposure and intelligence test performance at age six.  Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Decision, 47(3):254-263.

Willford, J.A., Day, N.L., Cornelius, M.D. Maternal tobacco use during pregnancy: epidemiology and effects on offspring. (2006) In M.W. Miller (Ed) Development of the mammalian central nervous system: effects of alcohol and nicotine  (pp 315-328). New York, New York: Oxford University Press.

Willford, J.A., Leech, S.L., Day, N.D. (2006) Moderate prenatal alcohol exposure and cognitive status of children at age 10. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 30(6): 1051-1059.

Willford, J.A., Richardson, G.A., Leech, S.L., & Day, N.L. (2004) Verbal and visuo-spatial learning and memory function in children with moderate prenatal alcohol exposure.  Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 28(3):497-507.

Richardson, G.A., Ryan, C., Willford, J., Day, N.L., & Goldschmidt, L. (2002)  Prenatal alcohol and marijuana exposure: Effects on neuropsychological outcomes.  Neurotoxicology and Teratology, 24(3):309-20.

Barron, S., Baseheart, B.J., Segar, T.M., Willford, J.A. (2000) The behavioral teratogenic potential of fenbendazole. Neurotoxicology and Teratology, 22:1-7.

Barron, S., Segar, T. and Willford, J. (2000) The effects of neonatal ethanol and/or cocaine exposure on isolation-induced ultrasonic vocalizations. Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior, 66:1-9.

Willford, J.A., Segar, T.M. and Barron, S. (2000) The behavioral response to novelty is altered in rats neonatally exposed to cocaine.  Developmental Psychobiology, 35(4):343-351.

Willford, J.A., Segar, T.M., Hansen-Trench, L.S., Barron, S. (1999) The Effects of neonatal cocaine exposure on a play-rewarded spatial discrimination task in juvenile rats.  Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior, 62(1):137-143.

Barron, S., Staton, M., Willford, J. and Hansen-Trench, L. (1998) The effects of Clonidine on rat pups neonatally exposed to cocaine. Neurotoxicology and Teratology, 20(4):401-409.

Recent Conference Presentations

Willford, J., Singhabahu, D., Friedman, J., Richardson, G. Effects of prenatal drug exposure on attention systems in the brain: A pilot fMRI study using the attention network task. Presented at the Neurotoxicology and Teratology Society, June, 2012

Willford, J.A. Setting the stage: Effects of prenatal drug exposure on growth, behavior, and cognition.  Presented at the Pennsylvania Infant Mental Health Conference, 2009

Willford, J., Day, R., Aizenstein, H., Ground, B., Kruk, R., Cyphert, N., Zeglen, M., Day, N. Effect of moderate prenatal alcohol exposure on measures of volume, asymmetry, and shape in the caudate nucleus in young adults. Presented at the Neurotoxicology and Teratology Society, June 2009.

Willford, J.A., Geier, C.F., Zeglen, M.J., Cyphert, N.W., Kruk, R. D., Luna, B., Day, N.L. Reward and response inhibition processing differences associated with prenatal alcohol exposure in young adults: a fast, event-related fMRI study. Presented at the Research Society on Alcoholism, June 2008.

Willford, J.A., Ho, A.Y., Aizenstein, H.J., Day, N.L. A fully automated assessment of volumetric brain differences in subjects with prenatal alcohol exposure.  Presented at the Research Society on Alcoholism, July 2007.

Willford, J.A., Ravizza, S.M., Carter, C.S. Cognitive control involved in overcoming prepotent response tendencies in children, adolescents, and adults.  Presented at the Society for Neuroscience, October 2006.

Willford, J.A., Landis, J., Zunner, J., Doyle, J., Day, N., Cornelius, M. Prenatal tobacco exposure affects working memory load in young adults.  Presented at the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco, February 2006.

Department of Psychology
309 F Vincent Science Center
Slippery Rock University
Slippery Rock, PA 16057
(724) 738-2696
Fax: (724) 738-4219

Email Me

Office Hours

Monday  12-1 pm

Tuesday 11-12:30 pm

Wednesday  12-1 pm

Thursday  11-12:30 pm

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