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Laura Thompson, Ph.D. - Fielding Graduate University. Las Cruces, NM, US

Laura Thompson, Ph.D.

Doctoral Faculty - Clinical Psychology | Fielding Graduate University


Effects of womb environment and maternal social factors on Infant learning; Effects of stress on cognition in infants and adults





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Dr. Laura Thompson is a member of the doctoral faculty in the Clinical Psychology program at Fielding Graduate University. Laura Thompson has taught graduate courses for over 20 years. Her main research interests are in cognitive neuroscience, where she studies how stress affects cognition in both infants and adults. She conducted, for example, a longitudinal study of infants during their first year, investigating how mildly stressful situations impacted their ability to learn and remember stimuli, using cortisol as a biological marker of stress. In the same study, she investigated how infant temperament and maternal sensitivity impacted infant learning and memory. Much of her focus is on characterizing individual and task differences that elicit different patterns of stress response.

Her ongoing work continues her primary interest in characterizing the multitude of factors that affect how well infants can learn, including the environment of the womb, and maternal social factors.

In her spare time, she enjoys time spent with her children, running, riding her horse, and playing the piano.

Industry Expertise (2)



Areas of Expertise (7)




Working Memory

Infant Learning

Neuroendocrine Functioning

Human Development

Accomplishments (1)

Distinguished Achievement Professor of Psychology (professional)


Awarded by New Mexico State University

Education (3)

Max Planck Institute: Postdoctoral Fellow, Human Development and Education 1989

Berlin, Germany

University of California, Santa Cruz: Experimental Psychology, PhD 1987

University of Cincinnati: MA, Psychology 1983

Event Appearances (2)

Stress Reactivity, Cognition, and Empowering People to Think Better

Psychology Department  University of California, Merced


Emotional and Physiological Arousal Exhibit Differing Effects on Infant Cortisol Reactivity During Learning Events

International Conference on Infant Studies  Minneapolis, Minesota


Research Grants (2)

Infant Cortisol Reactivity and its Relationship to Learning and Memory

Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development $1,170,000

(2003) Principal Investigator

Cortisol, Synchrony, and Infant Cognitive Development

National Institutes of Health $1,090,000

(2008) Principal Investigator

Articles (3)

A longitudinal study of infant cortisol response during learning events

Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development


Co-authored with Morgan, G. & Jurado, K. A.

Self-regulation and working memory in musical performers

Psychology of Music


Performing music in front of others can be stressful, even for experienced performers. The physiological effects of stress, namely, increases in cortisol and sympathetic nervous system activity, have been shown to have detrimental effects on cognition, particularly working memory. This study used an audition-like performance scenario to elicit a stress response in performers who differed in their degree of musical experience. We expected that participants with more musical experience would be better able to regulate their stress response, would report lower levels of anxiety, insecurity, and nervousness, and would show better working memory following the stressor, compared to participants with less musical experience. Although we did not find differences between more and less experienced performers in their sympathetic nervous system activity or their self-reported feelings of anxiety and nervousness, we did find some important differences: following the stressor, more experienced performers were less insecure, they showed better regulation of their cortisol response, and they demonstrated better working memory. Co-authored with Killough, C. M. & Morgan, G.

Breastfeeding and its relation to cortisol response, temperament, arousal and better learning and memory in infancy

Nova Publishers


To appear in J. Worobey (Ed.), Infant Feeding: Parental Perceptions, Behaviors and Health Effects. Co-authored with Morgan, G., Stauble, M., & Unger, C.