Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

MS in Neuroscience



First Advisor

Elizabeth Brondolo

Second Advisor

Monica Wagner

Third Advisor

Alison Hyslop


Discrimination has been linked to changes in executive function. This relationship may explain links between discrimination and adverse health and mental health outcomes, including depression, substance use, and health behavior. To date, the research examining this question has been limited, as the majority of studies reviewed employed experimental manipulations for discrimination exposure and tested acute same-day effects in the lab. Clarifying the extent to which exposure to discrimination impacts executive function over time in young adults is crucial to identifying opportunities for intervention. The current study evaluates the relations of both recent and lifetime exposure to racial discrimination to three core executive functions (i.e., cognitive flexibility, inhibitory control, and working memory) in a longitudinal sample of African American college students (n = 51). We failed to find any significant relationships between lifetime or past week discrimination and any of the core executive functions. These data suggest that acute effects of discrimination may remit quickly and chronic effects may be most visible in older adults. The absence of a significant effect of discrimination on executive function in young adults in this context suggests that potential interventions to mitigate these effects in older adults may not be relevant for young adults. Further research is warranted to explore changes over the lifespan in discrimination-related changes in executive functioning.