Sarah Hillenbrand

Sarah Hillenbrand

Term Assistant Professor

Program Director
Full-Time Faculty
Kalmanovitz 259


Sarah Hillenbrand is a cognitive neuroscientist and an educator. She earned her PhD in neuroscience at UC Berkeley, using functional magnetic resonance imaging to study human motor learning. From there, she moved on to teach courses in neuroscience, general scientific method, science writing, and storytelling at Stanford University in the Thinking Matters program and the Program in Writing and Rhetoric. More recently, she has taught courses on psychology, social justice, media literacy, and college and career readiness at the high school level. As director of the neuroscience major at USF, she oversees the development of a brand-new interdisciplinary major with a focus on creating a more just world through the lens of neurodiversity. She joins the faculty at USF eager to combine her love of the brain and nervous system with her passion for creating meaningful, memorable educational experiences for all learners.


  • Cognitive neuroscience
  • Human motor learning
  • Science communication
  • Pedagogy


  • Teacher Representative, School Site Council (Making Waves Academy)
  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committees on Teaching and Curriculum (Making Waves Academy, Program in Writing and Rhetoric at Stanford University)
  • Course coordinator (Thinking Matters Program at Stanford University)
  • Technology coordinator (Thinking Matters Program at Stanford University)


  • Alliant International University, Preliminary Single Subject Teaching Credential in Social Science, 2021
  • UC Berkeley, PhD in Neuroscience, 2015
  • Kenyon College, BA in Neuroscience, Philosophy, and Spanish Area Studies, 2007

Prior Experience

  • AP Psychology and Writing Skills Teacher, Making Waves Academy
  • College & Career Readiness and Social Justice Teacher, KIPP King Collegiate High School
  • Lecturer in the Program in Writing and Rhetoric, Stanford University
  • Adjunct professor in Psychology, University of San Francisco
  • Lecturer in the Thinking Matters Program, Stanford University

Awards & Distinctions

  • National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, 2010-2013

Selected Publications

  • Hillenbrand SF, Raveh D, & Amedi A (2019). What can sensory substitution tell us about brain organization? In Sensory Substitution and Augmentation (Ed. Fiona McPherson). Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press.
  • Hillenbrand SF, Ivry RB, & Schlerf JE. Effects of task-related changes in heart rate on estimation of hemodynamic response and model fit. Neuroimage.
  • Hansen KA, Hillenbrand SF, & Ungerleider LG (2012). Effects of Prior Knowledge on Decisions Made Under Perceptual vs. Categorical Uncertainty. Frontiers in Neuroscience.
  • Hansen KA, Hillenbrand SF, & Ungerleider LG (2012). Human Brain Activity Predicts Individual Differences in Prior Knowledge Use During Decisions. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience.
  • Hansen KA, Hillenbrand SF, & Ungerleider LG (2011). Persistency of priors-induced bias in decision behavior and the fMRI signal. Frontiers in Neuroscience.