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Lesley Ross
Lesley A. Ross
Associate Professor of Human Development and Family Studies
Professor-in-Charge of the Graduate Program
  • Human Development and Family Studies - HDFS
  • Graduate Program
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  • B.A., 2001, Psychology and French, University of Montevallo
  • M.Ed., 2003, Secondary Education, University of Montevallo
  • M.A., 2006, Lifespan Developmental Psychology, University of Alabama at Birmingham
  • Ph.D., 2007, Lifespan Developmental Psychology, University of Alabama at Birmingham
  • Post Doctoral Fellow, 2007-09, Center for Mental Health Research, Ageing Research Unit, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia
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Currently Accepting Graduate Students
Office Address
202 Health and Human Development Building
Additional Websites
Professional Credentials



Teaching Interests

I currently enjoy teaching Adult Development and Aging (HDFS 249), and graduate courses focused on Professional Development (HDFS 590), Ethics (HDFS 515), and successful aging, as well as cognitive aging, assessment and intervention

Research Interests

I am a lifespan developmental psychologist with a multidisciplinary background and expertise in cognitive aging, interventions to maintain healthy aging, human factors, and applied everyday outcomes, such as mobility and driving. My overall research goal is to maintain the everyday functioning of older adults through two related areas:

Everyday Function of Older Adults 
My first research area centers on cognition, health, and everyday outcomes in older adults. This line of research investigates the trajectories of change and the identification of factors contributing to various levels of impairment in these outcomes. Better understanding of these trajectories and contributing factors allows for identification of possible areas and key time points for interventions that may slow or delay declines in cognition, health, and everyday outcomes. Research projects within this first area have included:

  • driving mobility and safety in teens and older adults;
  • driver licensing policies;
  • cognitive, mental, and physical health in older adults;
  • cognitive functioning in adults with HIV, cancer, and Mild Cognitive Impairment;
  • and neuropsychological performance of older adults. 

One focus within this area is on the transportation and mobility of older adults. Driving is essential to maintaining health, wellbeing, and independence for many older adults. My work has demonstrated that functional abilities, such as cognition and physical functioning, are the main predictors of driving outcomes rather than age, per se. This line of work includes using survey methods, state-reported crashes, objective and self-report measures of health, cognition, sensory and physical functioning, as well as naturalistic driving via a smartphone application. I also enjoy the privilege of working with colleagues across the country and internationally through my role as the chair for the Committee on the Safe Mobility of Older Persons (ANB60) of the Transportation Research Board (TRB) of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine and in my role as co-convener of the Transportation and Aging Interest Group for the Gerontological Society of America.

Methods to Maintain Everyday Function in Older Adults:
I am interested in behavioral interventions that demonstrate real-world transfer to an activity of daily living, cognitive performance, or health. This can include interventions that reduce depression, maintain driving safety, or maintain the ability of an individual to age within his or her own home. Thus far, I have primarily focused on cognitive and physical exercise interventions with older adults.

One area that is demonstrating great promise are some cognitive training programs. One such computerized program, often called Processing Speed Training, Divided Attention Training, or UFOV training, has shown to transfer to maintained or improved everyday health and activities in older adults. These everyday outcomes have included maintained health and reduced health expenditures, reduced risk of depression, fewer at-fault vehicular crashes and safer driving, prolonged driving mobility, improved cognitive function, and improved Instrumental Activities of Daily Living. 

I am the PI on two NIA-funded projects investigating the behavioral and biological mechanisms underlying multiple types of cognitive training. Of particular interest are currently marketed technologies that may be used to enhance the cognitive, health, and everyday functioning of a range of populations throughout the lifespan.

Further details can be found on the Study of Healthy Aging and Applied Research Programs (SHAARP) lab website.


Strategic Themes

  • Human Development
  • Domains of Health and Behavior
  • Prevention
Professional Experience
  • 2017-Current: Associate Professor, Department of Human Development and Family Studies, Pennsylvania State University
  • 2018-Current: Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of Neurology, College of Medicine, Pennsylvania State University
  • 2014-2017: Assistant Professor, Department of Human Development and Family Studies, Pennsylvania State University
  • 2009-2013: Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Alabama at Birmingham.  Secondary Appointment in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Alabama at Birmingham 

Further Details can be found on the SHAARP lab website.


*Sprague, B. N., *Freed, S. A., *Webb, C. E., †Phillips, C. B., * Hyun, J., & Ross, L. A. (2019). The impact of behavioral interventions on cognitive function in healthy older adults: A systematic review. Ageing Research Reviews, 52, 32-52. PMID: 31002885. DOI: 10.1016/j.arr.2019.04.002

†Phillips, C. B., *Freed, S. A., & Ross, L. A. (2019). Older adult lifespace varies by driving status and residential population density. Transportation Research Record,267(7), 586-595. DOI: 10.1177/0361198119846092

Gamaldo, A. A., *Tan, S. C., Sardina, A. L., *Henzi, C., *Guest, R., Ross, L. A., *Willingham, K., Zonderman, A. B., Andel, R. A. (in press). Satisfaction and anxiety completing alternative versus traditional cognitive batteries among Black adults. Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences. DOI: 10.1093/geronb/gby095

Ross, L. A., *Webb, C. E., *Whitaker, C., *Hicks, J. M., *Schmidt, E. L., *Samimy, S., Dennis, N. A., & Visscher, K. M. (in press). The effects of useful field of view training on brain activity and connectivity. Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences. DOI: 10.1093/geronb/gby041

*Sprague, B. N., †Phillips, C. B., & Ross, L. A. (in press). Age-varying relationships between physical function and cognition in older adulthood. Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences. DOI: 10.1093/geronb/gbx126

Edwards, J. D., Xu, H., Clark, D. O., Guey, L. T., Ross, L. A., & Unverzagt, F. W. (2017). Speed of processing training results in lower risk of dementia: Results from the ACTIVE study. Alzheimer's & Dementia: Translational Research & Clinical Interventions, 3(4), 603-611. DOI: 10.1016/j.trci.2017.09.002

Ross, L. A., *Sprague, B. N., †Phillips, C. B., O’Connor, M. L., & Dodson, J. E. (2018). The impact of three cognitive training interventions on older adults’ physical functioning across five years.  Journal of Aging and Health,30(3), 475-498. DOI: 10.1177/0898264316682916

Ross, L. A., *Freed, S. A., Edwards, J. D., †Phillips, C. B., & Ball, K. (2017). The impact of three cognitive training programs on driving cessation across ten years: A randomized controlled trial. The Gerontologist, 57(5), 838-846.

*Schmidt, E. S., *Burge, W., Visscher, K. M., & Ross, L. R. (2016). Cortical thickness in fronto-parietal and cingulo-opercular networks predicts executive function performance in older adults. Neruopsychology, 30(3), 322-331DOI: 10.1037/neu0000242. PMCID: PMC4767555

Ross, L. A., Edwards, J. D., O’Connor, M. L., Ball, K. K., Wadley, V. G., & Vance, D. E. (2016). The transfer of cognitive speed of processing training to older adults’ driving mobility across five years. Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences, 71(1), 87-97. DOI: 10.1093/geronb/gbv022. PMCID: PMC4701127

Ball, K., Ross, L. A., Edwards, J., & Roth, D. (2013). Speed of Processing Training in the ACTIVE Study: Who Benefits? The Journal of Aging and Health, 25(8), 65S-84SDOI: 10.1177/0898264312470167. PMCID: PMC3947605

Ross, L. A., *Schmidt, E., & Ball, K. K. (2013). Interventions to maintain mobility: What works. Accident Analysis and Prevention,61, 167-196. DOI: 10.1016/j.aap.2012.09.027 PMCID: PMC3633644

Ross, L. A., *Dodson, J., Edwards, J. D., Ackerman, M. L & Ball, K. K. (2012). Self-rated driving and driving safety in older adults. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 48, 523-527DOI: 10.1016/j.aap.2012.02.015. PMCID: PMC3387731

Ross, L. A., Browning, C., Luszcz, M. A., Mitchell, P. & Anstey, K. J. (2011). Age-based testing for driver’s license renewal: Potential implications for older Australians. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 59, 281-285. DOI: 10.1111/j.1532-5415.2010.03241.x. PMCID: PMC3065853

Ross, L. A., Anstey, K. J., Kiely, K., Windsor, T., Byles, J., Luszcz, M. A., & Mitchell, P. (2009). Older drivers in Australia: Trends on driving status and cognitive and visual impairment. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (JAGS), 57(10), 1868-1873. DOI: 10.1111/j.1532-415.2009.02439.x

Ross, L. A., Clay, O. J., Edwards, J. D., Ball, K., Wadley, V. G., Vance, D. E., Cissell, G. M., Roenker, D. L., & Joyce, J. J.  (2009). Do older drivers at-risk for crashes modify their driving over time? Journals of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, 64(2), 163-170. DOI: 10.1093/geronb/gbn034. PMCID: PMC2655158

For more information, please see the SHAARP lab website.