Emily Stanyer

Pathway 0+3.5

Cohort 2019

0+3.5 Student

PhD Project

The neural mechanisms of sleep of migraine 

Supervised by: Dr Philip Holland & Dr Jan Hoffmann 

There is a relationship between sleep and migraine in that poor sleep can exacerbate or trigger migraine attacks and going to sleep can relieve migraine attacks. There is a higher likelihood of sleep disorders in patients with migraine, and sleep disruption represents a key risk factor for disease chronification (progression to >15 attacks per month). Migraineurs experience photophobia (sensitivity to light) during attacks, and light is a key regulator of sleep-wake cycles suggesting a link between sleep and migraine. The exact mechanism of this relationship remains to be fully established, a greater understanding of which would lead to evidence-based lifestyle and potential therapeutic interventions to reduce migraine susceptibility.  The aim of this project is to determine the underlying neural mechanisms of this association using in vivo approaches. We will address the hypothesis that dysregulation of specific neural-networks regulating sleep-wake cycles results in enhanced trigeminal nociception, leading to increased migraine frequency and attack chronicity using a combination of behavioural, chemogenetic/optogeneticand genetic approaches. 


graduated with an integrated master’s in psychology with a focus on neuroscience and neuroimaging at the University of York in 2018. During my degree, I worked as a part-time research assistant on a sleep study. Following graduation, I held a full-time research technician position at the University of Leeds. This was an industry collaboration with a neurotech company where I worked to create a portable EEG device for measuring and boosting sleep in the home environment. I volunteered for several clinical associations including the Stroke Association, The Alzheimer’s Society, and I have undertaken roles caring for disabled individuals and as a clinical psychologist administrative assistantThis inspired me to undertake research in clinical neuroscience, particularly within the field of sleepchose the MRC DTP as I liked the friendly, cohort feel and the opportunity to go on training workshops. I also liked the interdisciplinary aspect having really enjoyed working with a diverse team in my previous role. The range of projects that DTP students are doing is incredible and the annual symposium is a great way to learn about new topics. During my time as a DTP student, I have also taken up roles as a graduate teaching assistant on the King’s BSc Psychology programme and as an MRC DTP student rep – both of which have been thoroughly rewarding. 


Stanyer, E. C., Baniqued, P. D. E., Awais, M., Kouara, L., Davies, A. G., Killan, E. C., & Mushtaq, F. (2021). The impact of acoustic stimulation during sleep on memory and sleep architecture: A meta‐analysis. Journal of Sleep Research, e13385.

Stanyer, E. C., Creeney, H., Nesbitt, A. D., Holland, P. R., & Hoffmann, J. (2021). Subjective Sleep Quality and Sleep Architecture in Patients With Migraine: A Meta-analysis. Neurology97(16), e1620-e1631.

Baniqued, P. D. E., Stanyer, E. C., Awais, M., Alazmani, A., Jackson, A. E., Mon-Williams, M. A., … & Holt, R. J. (2021). Brain–computer interface robotics for hand rehabilitation after stroke: a systematic review. Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation18(1), 1-25.

Conference presentations

Progress in Motor Control – Amsterdam (7th – 10th July 2019). Presented a poster titled: Distinct Processing of Selection and Execution Errors in Neural Signatures of Outcome Monitoring.  

Sleep and development scientists network meeting – York (4th June 2019) Presented a poster titled: The impact of acoustic stimulation of sleep on cognitive performance: a systematic review and meta-analysis.  


  • MRC DTP flexible supplement award of £3920 to travel to the University of California Los Angeles for 1 month to complete complex in vivo training (July 2020). 
  • University of Leeds travel award to visit the motor lab at University of California San Francisco for 2 weeks (Aug 2019). 
  • University of Leeds Civic award for inspirational student education support (Jan 2019). 

Social media

Twitter: @emilystanyer