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Dr Valerie E. Lesk

LocationRichmond Building, E3
Feedback HoursTBC
Telephone+44 (0)1274 23 6832

Research Interests (key words only)

neuropsychology, brain function, neuropsychology of ageing, cognitive neuroscience, word retrieval, social cognition, mirror neurons.

PhD Supervision

Sarah Jones, Ph.D. student

Jade Kiou, Ph.D. student

Rabia Khalid, Ph.D.  student

Lily Ryan, MPhil student

Alex Blount, Ph.D. student (with Faculty of Engineering and Informatics)

Teaching and Supervisory Responsibilities

  • Module leader for Cognitive Psychology  (undergraduate and postgraduate)
  • Module leader for Advanced Issues in Neuropsychology

Administrative Responsibilities

  • Coordinator of induction for the Division of Psychology


I was awarded my PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience from SISSA, Trieste Italy which focussed on phonological priming of tip-of-the-tongues states with the addition of caffeine as a pharmacological modulation.  Following this I worked at the University of Leicester as a postdoctoral research associate on investigations of spatial working memory and hierarchical organisation of sequences.  I worked at the University of Oxford, Oxford Project to Investigate Memory and Ageing looking at spatial route learning in Alzheimer's disease and the effect of caffeine-containing foodstuffs on cognition in the elderly.

I joined the Division of Psychology in October 2008. Alongside my teaching, I am currently investigating pharmacological modulation of the tip-of-the-tongue state and priming in collaboration with a mathematical modeller. Additionally, I am assessing computerised techniques that can be utilised for early diagnosis of Alzheimer's dementia.  Much of my research now is in the field of social cognitive neuroscience.

Study History

Ph.D. SISSA-ISAS, Trieste Italy, June 29th 2005 cum laude; MSc Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, University of Liverpool, 2000; BSc (Hons) Biology, University of Manchester, 1999.

Professional History

Research Associate, Oxford Project to Investigate Memory and Ageing (OPTIMA), University of Oxford 2006-2008. Research Associate, Department of Psychology, University of Leicester 2005-2006.

Professional Activities

Research Areas

Early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and mild cognitive impairment. Virtual Reality to assess cognitive function in the elderly (with Prof Ugail in the Faculty of Engineering and Informatics). Cognitive reserve and bilinguilism.  Mirror neurones, memory and social cognition. Investigations of the extreme female brain. The effect of low-levels of caffeine on cognitive tests.  Tip-of-the tongue states and phonological priming.

Current Projects

Cognitive reserve and bilingualism (with Margret Gudmundsdottir).  The extreme female brain (with Sarah Jones).  Caffeine, priming and tip-of-the-tongue states (with Rabia Khalid).  Mirror neurones and source confusion errors (with Kaja Mitrenga and Prof. Raffaella Rumiati SISSA-ISAS).  The neuropsychology of creative behaviours (with Jade Kiou). Phonological priming and TOTs (with Rabia Khalid).  Diet and cognitive function (with Dr. Liz Walters and Lily Ryan).  Non-invasive methods for early diagnosis of dementia (with Prof. Hassan Ugail and Alex Blount)

Research Collaborations

  • Prof. Hassan Ugail, Faculty of Engineering and Informatics, University of Bradford
  • Dr. Stephen Womble, computational neuroscientist 
  • Prof. Raffaella Rumiati, SISSA-ISAS, Trieste, Italy


Walters ER, Lesk VE (2016) The Effect of Prior Caffeine Consumption on Neuropsychological Test Performance: A Placebo-Controlled Study. Dement Geriatr Cogn Disord. 2016;41(3-4):146-51. doi: 10.1159/000443952

Walters, E.R. & Lesk, V.E.  (2015) Time of day and caffeine influence some neuropsychological test scores in the elderly.  Psychological Assessment  27 (1) pp 161-8 doi: 10.1037/a0038213

Lesk, V.E., Nor Wan Shamsuddin, S, Walters, E.R. and Ugail, H. (2014) Using a virtual environment to assess cognition in the elderly'. Virtual Reality, 18, pp. 271-279

Kazmi S., Ugail H., Lesk VE & Palmer I (2014) Interactive Digital Serious Games for the Assessment, Rehabilitation and Prediction of Dementia. International Journal of Computer Games Technology

Wan Shamsuddin, S. N., Lesk, V. & Ugail, H.  (2011). Virtual Environment Design Guidelines for Elderly People in Early Detection of Dementia. Proceedings of the International Conference of Computer and Information Science 2011. 751-755.

Wan Shamsuddin, S. N., Ugail, H. & Lesk, V. (2011). Development and Usability Evaluation of Virtual Environment for Early Diagnosis of Dementia, Proceedings of the Second international conference on Visual informatics: sustaining research and innovations, Springer. 13-22

In the News/Media

Caffeine got your tongue? (2004) Monitor on Psychology magazine, American Psychological Association. Vol 35, no. 7. Review of our Behavioral Neuroscience paper by Mark Greer. 

A coffee can make you forgetful (2004) BBC news article about our Behavioral Neuroscience paper. July 20th. 

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