Susan Rivera

Susan Rivera Portrait

Position Title
Adjunct Professor

Dr. Rivera is not accepting graduate students


  • Ph.D., Developmental Psychology, University of California, Berkeley
  • B.A., Psychology, Indiana University


Dr. Rivera is not accepting graduate students

In addition to her academic appointment in the Department of Psychology, Susan Rivera is an affiliated faculty with the UC Davis Center for Neuroscience, which seeks to understand the function of the human brain in health and in illness. She also is a faculty member in the Center for Mind and Brain and a member of the M.I.N.D. Institute, both at UC Davis. In addition, Professor Rivera serves as a member of a number of professional organizations, including the Cognitive Neuroscience Society, the Cognitive Development Society, the Society for Research in Child Development, the Jean Piaget Society and the Society for Neuroscience. She also serves as associate editor of Frontiers in Developmental Psychology and as an editorial board member for Human Development and the Journal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders.

Research Focus

Professor 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 premutation (FXTAS).


Neurocognitive Development Lab (Rivera)


  • Shelton, A.L., Wang, J.Y., Fourie, E., Tassone, F., Chen, A., Frizzi, L., Hagerman R.J., Ferrer, E., Hessl, D.R., and Rivera, S.M. (2018). Middle cerebellar peduncle width- A novel MRI biomarker for FXTAS?. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 12, 379. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2018.00379
  • Koo, S. H., Kim, G., Rivera, S.M., Pan, T., & Fong, D. (2018). Wearable Technology Design for Autism Spectrum Disorders. Archives of Design Research, 31(1), 37-55. doi: 10.15187/adr.2018.
  • Rivera, S.M. (2018). Fragile x syndrome. In M. Bornstein (Ed.), The SAGE encyclopedia of lifespan human development (pp. 899-901). Thousand Oaks,, CA: SAGE Publications Ltd. doi: 10.4135/9781506307633.n335
  • Shickman, R., Famula, J., Tassone, F., Leehey, M., Ferrer, E., Rivera, S.M. and Hessl, D. (2018), Age- and CGG Repeat-Related Slowing of Manual Movement in Fragile X Carriers: A Prodrome of Fragile X-Associated Tremor Ataxia Syndrome?. Movement Disorders. doi:10.1002/mds.27314
  • Pokorny, J., Hatt, N.V., Rogers, S.J., and Rivera, S.M. (2017). What are you doing with that object? Comparing the neural responses of action understanding in adolescents with and without autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. doi: 10.1007/s10803-017-3338-3.
  • Burris, J.L., Barry, R.A., and Rivera, S.M. (2017). An eye tracking investigation of attentional biases towards affect in young children. Developmental Psychology, 53(8):1418-1427. doi: 10.1037/dev0000345
  • Wang, J.Y., Trivedi, A.M., Carrillo, N.R., Yang, J., Schneider, A., Giulivi, C., Adams, P., Tassone, F., Kim, K., Rivera, S.M., Lubarr, N., Wu, C., Irwin, R.W., Brinton, R.D., Olichney, J.M., Rogawski, M.A., and Hagerman, R.J. (2017). Open-label allopregnanolone treatment of men with fragile X-associated tremor/ataxia syndrome. Neurotherapeutics. doi: 10.1007/s13311-017-0555-6
  • Rivera, S.M., Carlson, S.M., and Zelazo, P.D. (2017). Introduction to special issue: Current perspectives on neuroplasticity. Cognitive Development, 42, 1-3. doi: 10.1016/j.cogdev.2017.05.003
  • Yoo, K.H., Burris, J.L., Gaul, K.N., Hagerman, R.J., and Rivera, S.M. (2017). Low-dose sertraline improves receptive language in children with fragile X Syndrome when eye tracking methodology is used to measure treatment outcome. Journal of Psychology and Clinical Psychiatry 7(6): 00465. doi: 10.15406/jpcpy.2017.07.00465
  • Burris, J.L., Barry-Anwar, R.A., Sims, R.N., Tassone, F., Hagerman, R.J., and Rivera, S.M. (2017). Children with fragile X syndrome display threat-specific biases toward emotion. Biological Psychiatry. doi: 10.1016/j.bpsc.2017.06.003.
  • Barry, R., Burris, J., Graf Estes, K., and Rivera, S.M. (2017). Caregivers and strangers: The influence of familiarity on gaze following and learning. Infant Behavior & Development, 46, 46‚Äì58. doi: 10.1016/j.infbeh. 2016.11.005
  • Jiraanont, P., Sweha, S., Al Olabi, R.R., Silva, M., Tang, H. Durbin-Johnson, B. Schneider, A. , Espinala, .M.., Hagerman, P.J. Rivera, S.M., Hessl, D., Hagerman, R.J., Chutabhakdikul, N., and Tassone, F. (2017). Clinical and molecular correlates in fragile X premutation females. Neurological Science, 7, 49-56. doi: 10.1016/j.ensci. 2017.04.003
  • Wang, J.Y., Hessl, D.R., Hagerman, R.J., Simon, T.J., Tassone, F., Ferrer, E., and Rivera, S.M. (2017). Abnormal trajectories in cerebellum and brainstem volumes in carriers of the fragile X premutation. Neurobiology of Aging, 55, 11-19.


Professor Rivera teaches in the areas of Developmental Neuroscience, Cognitive Development, and Numerical Representation and Reasoning. Recently she has taught undergraduate courses in Developmental Disorders, and Cognitive and Perceptual Development, and a graduate seminar in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience.


Professor Rivera has received a number of prestigious awards throughout her career. In 2010, she was the recipient of the UC Davis School of Medicine Dean’s Award for Excellence in Collaboration. She has received several M.I.N.D. Institute Pilot Research Grant Awards and was a Faculty Research Grant Recipient at UC Davis from 2003 to 2004. Prior to her tenure at UC Davis, she received the IGA Junior Faculty Research Award and fellowships from the National Institute of Health in Postdoctoral Training and Research. In 1998, she received the Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor award at UC Berkeley. In the mid to late 1990s, she received the American Psychological Association Dissertation Research Award, a Graduate Division Dissertation Award Fellowship at UC Berkeley, the National Research Service Award from the National Institute of Mental Health, and a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.