Gareth Gaskell



  • University of Cambridge
    BA in Experimental Psychology
  • University of London
    PhD in Psycholinguistics

Read Experimental Psychology at Cambridge, and then studied for a Ph.D. in psycholinguistics at Birkbeck College, London. Continued postdoctoral research on language at Birkbeck, before joining the scientific staff at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge. Moved to the Psychology Department in York in 1999. Current research interests include speech perception, phonological processing, the mental lexicon, vocabulary acquisition, connectionist modelling, sleep and memory consolidation.



I have two overlapping areas of research: psycholinguistics and sleep/memory research.

On the psycholinguistic side, recent research has looked at the representations and processes involved in the perception of spoken words. One important question in this domain addresses how listeners cope with the wide range of variation in the surface form of speech. I have been exploring the perceptual effects of a common source of these changes, phonological variation, which can neutralise phonemic distinctions in connected speech.

Another strand of research has examined issues of activation and competition between lexical candidates during the course of a word's perception. This research has led to the development of a connectionist model of speech perception based on the distributed representation of various types of lexical knowledge.

My interest in sleep and memory began when working on the factors involved in the development of lexical representations. The basic question here is how does a new word enter the mental lexicon and join in the competitive process of spoken word recognition. It seems that this lexicalisation process is associated with sleep.

My interest in sleep and language has led to the development of a sleep laboratory in the Department, which opened in July 2010. Here we can monitor sleep using polysomnography and correlate these recordings with behavioural changes in memory performance. A current interest relates to potential dissociations between sleep spindle activity and slow-wave activity in memory consolidation and integration.

Research group(s)

  • Language Processing
  • Adult Cognition and Neuropsychology


Current Grants

  • ESRC Research Grant
    Principal Investigator: “Reactivation of declarative memory during sleep”, £302,000 (May 2012-April 2015).
  • ESRC Research Grant
    Coinvestigator: “The role of learning mechanisms in understanding language”. Awarded to Rodd, Gaskell & Davis. £386,000 (Mar 2014-Feb 2017).
  • ESRC Research Grant
    Principal Investigator: “Systematicity and consistency in the consolidation of word knowledge” with Jelena Mirkovic, £310,000 (Oct 2011-Sept 2014).
  • Leverhulme Trust
    Principal Investigator: “Novel word integration in adults and children” with Anna Weighall, £159,000 (Aug 2010-July 2014).
  • Waterloo Foundation
    Coinvestigator: “Dyslexia, sleep and co-occurrence.” Awarded to Henderson, Gaskell, Warmington and Weighall. £49,822 (Mar 2014-Apr 2015).

Recent Grants

  • ESRC Research Fellowship
    "Neural and behavioural consequences of vocabulary acquisition: an interdisciplinary approach", £272,000 (October 2007 - September 2010).
  • Marie Curie Research Training Networks
    "Sound to Sense", PI: Sarah Hawkins, Cambridge University (May 2007 - April 2011).
  • ESRC Small Grant
    Coinvestigator: “Dream content as a measure of memory consolidation across multiple periods of sleep”, ESRC small grant awarded to Blagrove, Lewis, Gaskell & Walker, £80,000 (April-Dec 2012).
  • BBSRC Research Grant
    Principal investigator: "Levels of processing in spoken word recognition: insights from the dual-task methodology" with Philip Quinlan, £187,000 (Sept 2003 - August 2006).
  • MRC Career Establishment Grant
    Principal investigator: "Lexical competition in spoken word recognition: the effects of learning new words", £216,000 (March 2001 - March 2007).


  • Mark Blagrove
    University of Swansea
  • Audrey Bürki
    University of Geneva
  • Anne Castles
    Macquarie University
  • Matt Davis
    MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit
  • Nicolas Dumay
    University of Exeter
  • Penny Lewis
    University of Manchester
  • Shane Lindsay
    University of Dundee
  • Kate Nation
    University of Oxford
  • Ken Paller
    Northwestern University
  • Elsa Spinelli
    University of Grenoble
  • Jakke Tamminen
    Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Matt Walker
    University of California, Berkeley
  • Anna Weighall
    Sheffield Hallam University
  • Pienie Zwitserlood
    University of Muenster

Available PhD research projects

I am happy to take on PhD students in the following areas:

  • Psycholinguistics
  • Sleep and memory consolidation

Questions that current PhD students are addressing include:

  • How do we learn new words?
  • What kind of representation do spoken words have in the mental lexicon?
  • What does sleep do to the representations of new memories?
  • How does memory consolidation relate to brain activity during sleep?

Potential PhD applicants can contact me to discuss these and other possibilities.


  • Anastasia Roschupkina (Year 3, with Jelena Mirkovic)
  • Justyna Soczak (Year 2)
  • Jen Ashton (Year 1, with Beth Jefferies)



  • Development and Language (Years 1-2)
  • Cognitive Psychology of Sleep (Year 3)


Selected publications


See my personal page for a more comprehensive list of downloadable papers.

External activities


  • Experimental Psychology Society
  • Psychonomic Society
  • Behavioral and Brain Sciences Associate
  • European Sleep Research Society

Editorial duties

  • Cognition
    Editorial Board
  • Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
    Consulting Editor

Contact details

Gareth Gaskell
Department of Psychology
Room PS/C226

Tel: 01904 323187