Professor Penny (Penelope) Lewis


Research group:
029 208 70467
CUBRIC, Maindy Road

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 behavior and neural activity which occur after initial learning. I’m particularly interested in changes occurring while a memory is not being encoded, practiced, or recalled. These can happen both during sleep and during wakefulness. 

Current interests in the lab fall into three 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 masters in neuroimaging: PST505

Selected publications (2014 onwards)


Full list of publications


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.


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 here.

Current students

Anne Koopman - studying sleep engineering for creativity
Tia Tsimpanouli - studying sleep, emotional memory and depression
Hikaru Tsujimura - studying the impact of sleep on generalisation of face representations
Jules Schneider - studying ways to trigger SWS 

Current Postdoctoral Research Assistant

Suliman Belal - Is studying the application of multivariat classifiers to sleep EEG data
Alexia Zoumpoulaki - Is studying the detection of neural replay in sleep with EEG classifiers.

Previous students

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

Prior Post Doc Students

Simon Durrant: Did a 3 year postdoc in my lab and is now a Lecturer at the University of Lincolin
Jakke Tamminen: Did a 1 year postdoc in my lab and is now a postdoc at Royal Holloway

Undergraduate education

BA at Cornell University

Postgraduate education

DPhil at Oxford