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Professor Penny (Penelope) Lewis

Professor Penny (Penelope) Lewis


+44 (0)29 2087 0467
Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre, Maindy Road, Cardiff, CF24 4HQ


Research summary

I am primarily interested in off-line learning during sleep and wakefulness: my research investigates brain plasticity, focusing specifically on the changes in behaviour and neural activity which occur after initial learning. I’m particularly interested in changes occurring while a memory is not being encoded, practised, or recalled. These can happen both during sleep and during wakefulness.

Current interests in the lab fall into four main categories

  1. Consolidation of procedural skills
  2. Emotional episodes
  3. Transition of memories from episodic to semantic
  4. 'Sleep engineering’ or ways to manipulate sleep for greater cognitive and or health benefit (see TEDx talk)

Sleep is critical for both health and cognition. Our lab is developing ways to manipulate sleep (called 'Sleep Engineering’) in order to maximise its beneficial properties. We are working on ways to enhance memory, disarm negative emotions, and combat cognitive decline through ageing. Read more here.

Teaching summary

I am teaching on the MSc Neuroimaging: Methods and Applications - PST505


Undergraduate education

BA at Cornell University

Postgraduate education

DPhil at Oxford























BBSRC, MRC, EPSRC, Wellcome Trust, DARPA

Research collaborators

Hong Viet-Ngo, Institute for Medical Psychology and Behavioural Neurobiology ,Teubingen, Germany 9

Alex Casson, Electrical Engineering, Manchester, UK

Simon Stringer, Oxford Center for Theoretical Neuroscience, Oxford, UK


Postgraduate research interests

If you are interested in applying for a PhD, or for further information regarding my postgraduate research, please contact me directly (contact details available on the 'Overview' page), or submit a formal application.

Current students

Mahmoud Eid Abdelhafez Abdellahi

Imogen Birch

Holly Kings

Anne Koopman - studying sleep engineering for creativity

Martyna Rakowska

Jules Schneider - studying ways to trigger SWS

Past projects

Previous students

Hikaru Tsujimura – Did a PhD exploring the impact of sleep on the generalisation of facial representations and competition between different identities

Tia Tsimpanouli – Did a PhD on sleep, emotional memory and depression

Isabel Hutchison – Did a PhD on the impact of  direct current stimulation on sleep and memory

Nora Hennies – Did a PhD on the impact of sleep upon the formation  of new semantic memories

James Cousins – Did a  PhD on the impact of triggered replay during sleep upon overnight memory consolidation

Scott Cairney – Did a PhD on sleep  and emotional memory and is now a postdoc at York

Previous postdocs

Matthias Treder - studied the detection of neural replay in sleep with EEG classifiers and is now a lecturer in Computer Science at Cardiff University.

Suliman Belal - studied the application of multivariate classifiers to sleep EEG data.

Alexia Zoumpoulaki - studied the detection of neural replay in sleep with EEG classifiers and is now a lecturer in Computer Science at Cardiff University.

Simon Durrant - studied the importance of SWS for gist abstraction and integration of new learning into schemas and is now a Lecturer at the University of Lincoln.

Jakke Tamminen - studied the importance of sleep for integration of new learning into existing knowledge and is now a postdoc at Royal Holloway.

Media activities

I am quite active in the media, and frequently give interviews for the BBC, NPR, and other networks. I recently gave a TEDx talk on Sleep Engineering, have written a popular book 'The Secret World of Sleep’  and edited a book of short stories about sleep 'Spindles’. For links to some of my media work, please look here.