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Lisa Henderson
Professor, Head of Department



  • BSc Psychology, University of Hull (2005)
  • MSc Reading, Language and Cognition, University of York (2006)
  • Visiting Scholar, University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (2009)
  • PhD Psychology, University of York (2010)


Prior to completing a BSc Psychology at the University of Hull in 2005, I then came to the Psychology Department at York to complete an MSc and PhD in semantic processing deficits in children with language and literacy difficulties (mentored by Professor Maggie Snowling and Dr Paula Clarke) in 2009. Following this, I began a postdoctoral research fellowship with Professor Gareth Gaskell and Dr Anna Weighall in 2010, studying the role of sleep in language learning. I then joined the Department as a Lecturer in 2012, and got promoted to Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) in 2017.

My research broadly covers reading and language development, and disorders of reading and language (including autism, dyslexia and developmental language disorder). Particular lines of research include the role of sleep in vocabulary acquisition, and individual differences in this process across development. The overarching aim of this research is to advance our theoretical understanding of language learning in development, and ultimately inform how to optimise language learning over the lifespan. I also have an interest in how developing sleep patterns support neurocognitive, social and emotional development from infancy to adolescence.

Departmental roles

  • Head of Department



  • Understanding the neurocognitive mechanisms that support the learning and consolidation of new vocabulary across development, including the role of sleep in driving language development. 
  • Predicting individual differences in language learning through the study of developmental disorders (e.g., dyslexia, developmental language disorder, autism, ADHD), and understanding the impact of sleep difficulties in these populations.
  • Understanding the role of sleep in predicting school readiness at preschool age and academic achievement during the transition to secondary school and beyond
  • Understanding the role of sleep in supporting mental health from infancy through to adolescence
  • Developing interventions to improve sleep in adolescence
  • Developing new tools to monitor sleep in the home environment

Find out more


We recently completed a Waterloo Foundation funded grant ‘SleepTalk!’ on sleep associated memory consolidation in children with dyslexia and without dyslexia. We found whilst sleep parameters (i.e., slow wave activity) are strongly associated with overnight changes in memory for typically developing children, this is not the case for children with dyslexia. This suggests that sleep is playing a more passive role in supporting memory consolidation in dyslexia. We recently won a large grant from the ESRC to extend this work to children with autism spectrum disorder with varying language profiles (the ‘SleepSmart’ project). Taking a more applied angle, we are also in the midst of a sleep intervention project which aims to extend sleep duration in sleep deprived teens and evaluate the impact on learning and memory consolidation.

For more information see the SLAM research page.

In my spare time I am also fascinated by visual processes in reading, and claims of visual deficits in dyslexia.


  • Gareth Gaskell
  • Anna Weighall
  • Jessica Horst
  • Faye Smith
  • Meesha Warmington
  • Courtenay Norbury
  • Jessie Ricketts
  • Barry Wright
  • Brendan Barrett
  • Philip Griffiths
  • Bob Taylor
  • Maggie Snowling
  • Paula Clarke

Current PhD Students

  • Amanda Olsson
  • Thomas Hunter
  • Catia Oliveria
  • Noel Lam

Past PhD Students

  • Emma James
  • Sarah Wu

Previous Postdoctoral Researchers

  • Jade Pickering
  • Nora Andermane
  • Emma James
  • Victoria Knowland
  • Fay Fletcher
  • Sarah Walker
  • Fay Smith

Available PhD research projects

I would be particularly interested to hear from postgraduates interested in language learning in typical or atypical development, sleep and development, sleep and mental health in adolescence.


Selected publications

See Google Scholar or the York Research Database.


Contact details

Dr Lisa Henderson
Professor, Head of Department
Department of Psychology
Room PS/A/004

Tel: 01904 324362