Marilyn Welsh

Marilyn Welsh


Psychological Sciences
Education and Behavioral Sciences

Contact Information

McKee Hall 14L
Mailing Address
University of Northern Colorado
Psychological Sciences
Campus Box 94
Greeley, CO 80639


Post Doc - University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Department of Psychiatry, USA

Ph.D. - University of California, Los Angeles, USA

M.A. - University of California, Los Angeles, USA

B.A. (Honors) - University of California, Los Angeles, USA

Professional/Academic Experience

I received my BA with honors from the University of California, Los Angeles, majoring in Psychology. After a one-year break to travel in Europe, I began my doctoral program in Developmental Psychology at UCLA where I also minored in Physiological and Cognitive Psychology.  Upon completion of my doctoral program, I taught for one year in the Behavioral Science Department of California Stater Polytechnic University, Pomona, California. Following this, I accepted a position as a postdoctoral fellow with the Developmental Psychobiology Research Group at the University of Colorado Health Sciences, supervised by Dr. Bruce Pennington.  It was through this postdoctoral fellowship that I developed my current research program in the area of “executive functions,” supported by my own NRSA fellowship awarded by NIH.  Following the postdoctoral fellowship, I was hired as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at Fordham University, where I stayed for three years.  I returned to Denver, Colorado to work as a research assistant on a NIH grant awarded to Drs. Pennington and Hagerman examining the neuropsychological sequelae of Fragile X.  Soon after, I accepted my current position at the University of Northern Colorado, where I have taught, conducted research, and served in many service roles (e.g., Coordinator of Graduate Programs in Educational Psychology).   Today, I am a full professor in the School of Psychological Sciences, active in my collaborative research on the impact of childhood stress on college students’ academic adaptation, and involved in various service activities for the university and the discipline (e.g., journal reviewing, grant reviewing for NIH and NSF).

Research/Areas of Interest

My research program in developmental and cognitive neuropsychology is focused on examining the nature of executive function, the cognitive processes mediated by the prefrontal cortex. Executive functions include such processes as planning, working memory, inhibition, flexibility, and self-monitoring. Over the years, my research has explored these processes in typical and atypical populations, the construction and validation of new assessment tools, and the degree to which interventions can facilitate executive functions in children and adults. Over the years, my research program has taken an applied approach. For example, I have examined the effectiveness of a thinking skills curriculum, BrainWise, for improving executive functions in very vulnerable populations, including families living in poverty, high-risk adolescents attending alternative high schools, and homeless men living in transitional housing. My research with doctoral students in Educational Psychology has identified that executive functions do, indeed, relate to some very important real-world behaviors, such as academic self-efficacy and achievement, career exploration and decision making, and risk taking.

My most recent writing and research has focused on the concepts of “cool” and “hot” executive function, in collaboration with Dr. Eric Peterson. The “cool” version of executive function involves the manner in which we have traditionally tested executive function with decontextualized, laboratory tasks, under conditions with relatively little arousal, motivation, or emotion. Alternatively, the “hot” version of executive function pertains to testing these processes under more arousing conditions that more closely parallel our engagement of executive function skills in the real world of school, work, peers and risky situations. Currently, we are pursuing a line of research in which we look at executive function in terms of the complex relationships among task, context and person (e.g., personality factors). Our primary objective is to examine individual differences among students in early stressful life experiences (e.g., child maltreatment) as predictors of college adaptation and achievement, mediated by hot and cool executive functions, as well as a range of social-emotional processes.

My research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation, the Avielle Foundation, and generous grants from the University of Northern Colorado.

I strive to teach content-rich classes that combine both lecture and discussion formats. My goal is to link the topic area, whether it is research methods or child psychology, to current issues in society, as well as to provide students with the practical, critical thinking skills to make informed decisions about their own lives. Typically, the courses I teach are:  Introduction to Research Methods, Advanced Research Methods, Human Growth and Development, Child and Adolescent Psychology, Developmental Disabilities and Psychopathology, as well as graduate-level courses on development and executive functions.

Publications/Creative Works

Peer-Reviewed Publications

Welsh, M.C., Peterson, E., Jameson, M. (20117).  History of Child Maltreatment and College Academic Outcomes: Mediation by Execution Function. Special section of Frontiers in Science: Psychology. DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01091

Welsh, M.C., Gorman Barry, P., Jacobs, A., & Beddes, L.  (under review). Homeless Men Living in Transitional Housing: The BrainWise Curriculum and Improvements in Executive Functions and Coping Self-Efficacy. Sage Open

Peterson, E., & Welsh, M.C. (2014). Formative versus reflective measurement in executive functions: A critique of Willoughby et al. Measurement: Interdisciplinary Research & Perspectives.

Welsh, M.C., & Peterson, E. (2014). Issues in the Conceptualization and assessment of hot executive functions in childhood. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, 20(2), 152 – 156.

Welsh, M.C., & Wilson-Schmitt, S. (2013).  Executive function, identity and career decision making in college students. Sage Open,3, 1-9.

Wilson-Schmitt, S., & Welsh, M.C..  (2012). Vocational knowledge in rural children:  A study of individual differences and predictors of occupational aspirations and expectations.  Learning and Individual Differences, 22, 862-867.

Salnaitis, C. L., Baker, C. A., Holland, J., Welsh, M. C. (2011). Differentiating Tower of Hanoi performance: Interactive effects of psychopathic tendencies, impulsive response styles, and modality. Applied Neuropsychology, 18, 37-46.

Ketelson, K., & Welsh, M.C.  (2010).  Working Memory and Mental Arithmetic: A Case for Dual Central Executive Resources. Brain and Cognition, 74, 203-209.

De Roche, K, & Welsh, M.C. (2008). Twenty-Five Years of Research on Neurocognitive Outcomes in Early-treated Phenylketonuria: Intelligence and Executive Function. Developmental Neuropsychology, 33, 474-504.

Zook, N., Welsh, M.C., Ewing, V.  (2006). Performance of healthy, older adults on the Tower of London-Revised: Associations with verbal and nonverbal abilities. Aging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition 13, 1-19.

Mutter, B., Alcorn, M., & Welsh, M.C.  (2006). Theory of mind and executive function:  Working memory capacity and inhibitory control as predictors of false-belief task. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 102, 819-835.

Emick, J. & Welsh, M.C.  (2005). Association between formal operational thought and executive functions. Learning and Individual Differences, 15, 177-188. 

Welsh,M.C.& Huizinga, M.C. (2005). Tower of Hanoi disk-transfer task:  influences of strategy knowledge and learning on performance.  Learning and Individual Differences., 15, 283-298.

Welsh, M.C. & Huizinga, M. (2001).  Development and preliminary validation of the Tower of Hanoi-Revised. Assessment, 8, 167-176.

Welsh, M.C., Revilla, V., Strongin, D., & Kepler, M.  (2000). Towers of Hanoi and London: Is the nonshared variance due to differences in task administration? Perceptual and Motor Skills, 562-572.

Welsh, M.C., Satterlee-Cartmell, T., & Stine, M.  (1999). Towers of Hanoi and London: Contribution of working memory and inhibition to performance. Brain and Cognition,41, 231-242.

Schnirman, G., Welsh, M.C., & Retzlaff, P.  (1998). Development of the Tower of London-Revised. Assessment, 5, 355-360.

Humes, G.E., Welsh, M.C., Retzlaff, P., & Cookson, N.  (1997). Towers of Hanoi and London:  Reliability and validity of two executive tasks.  Assessment, 4, 249-257.

Brennan, M., Welsh, M.C., & Fisher, C.B.  (1997). Aging and executive function skills:  An examination of a community-dwelling older adult population. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 84, 1187-1197.

Welsh, M.C.  (1996). A prefrontal dysfunction model of early-treated phenylketonuria. European Journal of Pediatrics (Special Section), 155, 87-89.

Welsh, M.C., Cicerello, A., Cuneo, K., & Brennan, M.  (1995). Error and temporal patterns on the Tower of Hanoi disk-transfer task:  Cognitive mechanisms and individual differences. Journal of General Psychology, 122, 69-81.

Pennington, B.F., Groisser, D., & Welsh, M.C.  (1993). Contrasting neuropsychological deficits in Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder versus Reading Disability. Developmental Psychology, 29, 511-523. 

Cuneo, K.M. & Welsh, M.C.  (1992). Perseveration in young children:  Developmental and neuropsychological perspectives. Child Study Journal, 22, 73-92.

Welsh, M.C., Pennington, B.F., & Groisser, D.  (1991). A normative-developmental study of executive function: A window on prefrontal function in children. Developmental Neuropsychology, 7, 131-149.

Welsh, M.C. (1991). Rule-guided behavior and self-monitoring on the Tower of Hanoi disk-transfer task. Cognitive Development, 6, 59-76.

Welsh, M.C., Pennington, B.F., Ozonoff, S., Rouse, B., & McCabe, E.R.B.  (1990). Neuropsychology of Early-treated Phenylketonuria: Specific Executive Function Deficits. Child Development, 61, 1697-1713.

Welsh, M.C. & Pennington, B.F.  (1988).   Assessing frontal lobe functioning in children:  Views from developmental psychology.  Developmental Neuropsychology, 4, 199-230.

Welsh, M.C. (1987). Verbal mediation underlying inductive reasoning:  Cognitive tempo differences. Cognitive Development, 2, 37-57.

Pennington, B.F., Johnson, C., & Welsh, M.C.  (1987).  Unexpected reading precocity in a normal preschooler. Brain and Language, 30, 165-180.

Welsh, M.C., Pennington, B.F., & Rogers, S.  (1987).  Word recognition and comprehension skills in hyperlexic children. Brain and Language,  32, 76-96.

Lawry, J.A., Welsh, M.C., & Jeffrey, W.E.  (1983). Cognitive tempo and complex problem solving. Child Development, 54, 912-20.

Invited Chapters

Peterson, E. & Welsh, M.C. (2014). The development of hot and cool executive functions: Are we getting warmer? In S. Goldstein and J.A. Naglieri (Eds.), Handbook on Executive Functioning, (pp. 45 – 65). New York: Springer.

Welsh, M.C., De Roche,K. & Gilliam, D. (2008). Neurocognitive Models of Early-treated Phenylketonuria:  Insights from Meta-Analysis and New Molecular Genetic Findings. C. Nelson & M. Luciana (Eds.), Handbook of Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience. Boston:  MIT Press.

Gorman Barry, P., & Welsh, M.C.  (2007). The BrainWise Curriculum:  Neurocognitive Development Intervention Program.  In D. Romer & E. Walker (Eds.), Adolescent Psychopathology and the Developing Brain: Integrating brain and prevention science. New York:  Oxford University Press.

Welsh, M.C., Friedman, S.L., & Spieker, S.J. (2006).  Executive Functions in Developing Children:  Current Conceptualizations and Questions for the Future. In D.Phillips & K.McCartny (Eds.), Handbook of Early Childhood Development. London:  Blackwell.

Welsh, M.C. (2002).  Developmental and clinical variations in executive functions.  In D. Molfese & V. Molfese (Eds.), Developmental variations in language and learning. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum

Welsh, M.C.  (2001).  The prefrontal cortex and the development of executive functions. In A. Kalverboer and A. Gramsbergen (Eds.), Handbook of brain and behaviour development. The Netherlands: Kluwer.

Welsh, M.C. & Pennington, B.F.  (2000).  Phenylketonuria. In K.O. Yeates, M.D. Ris, H.G. Taylor (Eds.), Pediatric Neuropsychology: Research, theory, and practice. New York: Guilford.

Pennington, B.F. & Welsh, M.C.  (1995).  Neuropsychology and developmental psychopathology.  In D. Cicchetti & D. Cohen (Eds.), Manual of developmental psychopathology. New York: John Wiley.

Welsh, M.C.  (1994).  Executive function and the assessment of attention deficits.  In N. Jordan & J. Goldsmith-Phillips (Eds.), New directions in the assessment and treatment of learning disabilities. New York: Allyn and Bacon

Welsh, M.C.  (1993).  Hyperlexia and precocious reading. In G. Blanken, J. Dittmann, H. Grimm, J. Marshall, & C. Wallesch (Eds.), Linguistic disorders and pathologies: An international handbook. Berlin:  Walter De Gruyter.

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