Professor Sue Denham

Professor Sue Denham


School of Psychology (Faculty of Health and Human Sciences)


Professor in Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience


1995, Ph.D. in Computing, University of Plymouth, Neural Models of Subcortical Auditory Processing

1995, SEDA Teaching in Higher Education

1992, B.Sc. Honours in Computer Science (with distinction), University of South Africa

1980, B.Sc. in Physics (with distinction), University of South Africa

Teaching interests

Neurobiology and Modelling of the Auditory System, Biological Psychology, Brain-inspired Cognitive Systems, Foundations of Theoretical Neuroscience, Sensors and Sensor Systems, Machine Learning, Knowledge Engineering, Artificial Intelligence, Programming for Artificial Intelligence

Programme management:

1997-2000, MSc in Computational Intelligence

1994-1997, MSc in Intelligent Systems

Research interests

Sounds provide us with useful information about our environment which complements that provided by other senses. The sound world is essentially transparent; we can perceive many different sounds simultaneously, and from any direction. Sounds are easy to generate and manipulate, and so provide an excellent means for communication. However, it is the very aspects which make sounds useful that pose difficult problems for auditory processing. How does the auditory system disentangle signals from different sound sources? How does the brain form representations which allow it to link intermittent sounds from the same source through time? How does it deal with ambiguity? And how are our expectations molded both by previous experience and the current listening context? The aims of my research are to understand auditory cognition using perceptual experiments and computational models, and to apply this understanding in the development of computationally efficient implementations for practical technological applications, and in the creation of novel devices.

Research degrees awarded to supervised students



  • Banavas GN (2000). 'Prognosis - Historical pattern matching for economic forecasting and trading'.
  • Khurshid A (2002). 'Pitch estimation for noisy speech'.
  • Packham ISJ (2004). 'An interactive visualisation system for engineering design using evolutionary computing'.
  • Lanyon LJ (2005). 'A biased competition computational model of spatial and object-based attention mediating active visual search'.
  • Coath M (2006). 'A computational model of auditory feature extraction and sound classification'.
  • Turner H (2007). 'The evolution of language universals: Optimal design and adaptation'.
  • Jiang B (2010). 'A biophysical model of the role of the outer hair cell in cochlear nonlinearity'
  • Dura Bernal S (2010). 'A cortical model of object perception based on Bayesian networks and belief propagation'.
  • Davies LA (2011). 'Encoding strategies and mechanisms underpinning adaptation to stimulus statistics in the rat barrel cortex'.
  • Tyagi V (2017). 'The Risky side of Creativity: A Scientific Investigation of Creativity and Domain Specific Risk Taking'
  • Mihaela Taranu (2018). 'Commonalities and differences in visual and auditory perceptual multistability'.

Grants & contracts

  • Denham S (Coordinator + 26 others, Plymouth University), 23 international parners (2013-2017). EU FP7 Marie Curie Initial Training Network (FP7-PEOPLE-2013-ITN-IDP 604764; €4.1m) "CogNovo: Cognitive Innovation". 
  • Denham SL, Andringa T. Auditory Cognition Summer School, EUCogIII 15,000 euro 
  • Cangelosi PI and project coordinator, Wennekers and Denham Co-I, S. Furber (Manchester), F. Pulvermuller (MRC Cambridge and Free University Berlin). With ARM, HONDA HRI and TMSUK Japan as industrial advisors. UK EPSRC-BBSRC, £1,600,000 (£1,200.000 at Plymouth) “BABEL: Bio-inspired Architecture for Brain Embodied Language” (2012-15). 
  • Denham SL, Wennekers T, Winkler I, Indiveri G, Klump G, Andreou A, Giorgiou J. acoustic SCene ANalysis for Detecting Living Entities (SCANDLE); 2009-2012. Cognitive Systems (FP7-ICT-231168), 2,650,000 euro.
  • Crow F, Prior D, Hanscomb L, Denham SL, Watts G, Jouan S. Tranquility is a state of mind; Wellcome Trust’s Engaging Science grants, July 2008 (£30,000).
  • Denham SL, Denham MJ, Miranda ER, Deco G, Serra X, Winkler I, Honing H (2005-2008). 'Emergent Cognition through Active Perception'. Oct 2005-Sept 2008. IST-FET Open (FP6-013123), 1,948,000 euro.
  • Denham MJ (PI), Denham SL, Dudek P, Furber S, Hausser M, Panzeri S, Roth AE, Schnupp JW, Thomson AM, van Rossum M, Wennekers,T, Willshaw DJ (2005-2010). ‘A novel computing architecture for cognitive systems based on the laminar microcircuitry of the neocortex’, EPSRC, £1,812,000.
  • Braun J, Denham SL, Del Guidice P, Deco G, Indeveri G, Fusi S (2002-2005). ‘Attend-to-learn and learn-to-attend with neuromorphic, analogue VLSI, European Commission, Information Societies Technologies Programme, IST-FET Open (RTD), 2,277,158 euro.
  • Denham SL (2000-2001). 'Modelling the recognition of complex sounds', Research Fellowship, The Leverhulme Trust, £16,836.
  • Evans EH, Worsfold PJ, McCabe SL (1997-1999). 'Improved Elemental Assay using Atomic Spectroscopy’. £ 98,919.

Research groups

  • Centre for Research in Brain, Cognition and Behaviour (CBCB)
  • Brain
  • Computer Science and Informatics
  • Theoretical & Computational Neuroscience

Other academic activities

Section Editor: Springer Encyclopedia of Computational Neuroscience

Frontiers in Neuroscience topic: "Probing auditory scene analysis", host editor

Referee for the following journals and research councils:
  • Journal of the Acoustical Society of America
  • PLoS Computational Biology
  • Perception and Psychophysics
  • Psychophysiology
  • Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
  • Speech Communication
  • Hearing Research
  • Brain Research
  • NeuroComputing
  • IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering
  • Neural Networks
  • Network: Computation in Neural System
  • IEEE Transactions on Neural Networks
  • IEEE Audio and Media
  • Neurocomputing
  • BioSystems
  • ESRC
  • MRC
  • Wellcome
  • US Air force Office of Scientific Research
  • Israeli Science Foundation
  • Dutch National Science Foundation (NWO)
  • Royal Society
  • Research Council for Natural Sciences and Engineering at the Academy of Finland