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University of Exeter Medical School

Professor Crawford Winlove

Professor Crawford Winlove

Associate Professor of Neuroscience


 +44 1392722912

 College House G.05


College House, University of Exeter, St Luke's Campus, Heavitree Road, Exeter, EX1 2LU, UK


Crawford Winlove is an Associate Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience. He grew up in London, and was educated at the University of Bristol. Crawford was introduced by Dr Robert Meech to the possibility of identifying the biophysical basis of behaviour in simple animals. As a result, after a period of fundraising for Amnesty International, Crawford returned to Bristol to complete a PhD with Prof. Alan Roberts FRS. This research used in vivo patch-clamp electrophysiology to understand the role of spinal neurons in animal models of behaviour.

Following the completion of his PhD Crawford was invited to join the prestigious Human Brain project at the Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), but declined to pursue his developing interest in the roles of cognitive processes in human goal-directed behaviour. Crawford accepted an Honorary Research Fellowship at the University of Bristol, and a Teaching Fellowship at the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry in 2009. Crawford was appointed as a Lecturer in Neuroscience at the University of Exeter in 2011, a Senior Lecturer in 2018 and an Associate Professor in 2021.

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Research interests

Crawford is a Cognitive Neuroscientist, with a general interest in how neural processes give rise to human behaviour.

Most recently, Crawford’s work has focused on Imagination – our capacity for sensory-like experiences in the absence of corresponding external stimuli. A key aspect of this has been elucidating the neural bases for marked differences in imagery vividness: its absence, Aphantasia, and its counter: Hyperphantasia. Much of this work, the Mind’s Eye Project, has been funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council – and forms the basis of an art exhibition currently touring the UK.

An earlier focus of his work was addiction and substance abuse, motivated by the appalling impact of these conditions. A particular interest has been the neural correlates of craving, an emotional state which appears to precipitate relapse in many substance abusers – and yet be unknown to others. Crawford’s computational modelling of previously published neuroimaging data is starting to reveal the neural basis of these clinically important differences.

Other research has encompassed analyses of the psychological factors underpinning undergraduate alcohol consumption with Dr Mark Tarrant, and the demographic factors associated with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, with Prof. Tamsin Ford.

Key methods:

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI):                 BOLD, Arterial Spin-Labelling, Voxel-based Morphometry, Diffusion-Tensor Imaging

Anatomical labelling:                                         Implementation of the Connectome Workbench

Modelling:                                                         Neuroimaging data; Effect-size meta-analysis

Cognitive research methods:                            Electroencephalography (EEG); Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)

Psychological Testing                                       In-person neuropsychological assessment; the design and development of computerised instruments; survey design and delivery.

Research projects

Current projects include:

The neural correlates of Aphantasia and Hyperphantasia.

Contrasting the neural correlates of Visual Imagery with those associated with Attention, Working Memory, and the Default Mode Network.

Alternative computational approaches to Co-ordinate-based meta-analysis.

The neural correlates of motor imagery.

Changes in imagery associated with psychiatric disorders.

The role of Imagination in Creativity.

How the Neuroscience of imagination can be applied in the workplace

Department of Health                                                                    £260,000

The Journey to Medicine: A Residential Intervention

Dr Crawford Winlove, Prof. Kevin Murphy (Imperial College), Dr Clare Owen (Medical Schools Council), Dr Ceri Nursaw (Nursaw Associates)

AHRC                                                                                               £80,634

Extreme Imagination – Aphantasia and hyperphantasia

Prof. Adam Zeman, Dr Crawford Winlove, and Prof. Fiona McPherson (University of Glasgow)

Health Education England                                                              £19,638

Outbreak Outreach!

Mr Luke Graham, Mr John Stanier, Dr Graham Watkinson, Dr Ian Fussell, Mr William Berkley, Dr Alexander Harding                                       

AHRC                                                                                                  £79,981

The eye’s mind – a study of the neural basis of visual imagination and of its role in culture

Prof. Adam Zeman, Dr Crawford Winlove, and Prof. John Onians, FSA (University of East Anglia)

Drink Aware                                                                                     £60,425

Mixed methods assessment of a new intervention for encouraging responsible alcohol behaviour in the night time economy: the “Club Host” intervention

Dr Mark Tarrant, Prof. Charles Abraham, Dr Joanne Smith, and Dr Crawford Winlove

Drink Aware                                                                                      £20,465

Project Extension: Mixed methods assessment of a new intervention for encouraging responsible alcohol behaviour in the night time economy: the “Club Host” intervention

Dr Mark Tarrant, Prof. Charles Abraham, Dr Joanne Smith, and Dr Crawford Winlove

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Journal articles

Tarrant M, Smith JR, Ball S, Winlove C, Gul S, Charles N (In Press). Alcohol consumption among university students in the night-time economy in the UK: a three-wave longitudinal study. Drug and Alcohol Dependence
Zeman A, MacKisack M, Aldworth S, MacPherson F, Onians J, Winlove C (In Press). plural imagination: diversity in mind and making. Art Journal
Milton F, Fulford J, Dance C, Gaddum J, Heuerman-Williamson B, Jones K, MacKisack M, Knight KF, Winlove C, Zeman A, et al (2020). Behavioral and neural signatures of visual imagery vividness extremes: Aphantasia vs. Hyperphantasia. Abstract.
MacKisack M, Zeman A, Winlove C, Onians J, Macpherson F, Aldworth S (2020). Extended Imagining: the case of the aphantasic artist. Abstract.
Zeman AZJ, Milton F, Della Sala S, Dewar M, Frayling T, Gaddum J, Hattersley A, Heuerman-Williamson B, Jones K, Mackisack M, et al (2020). Phantasia - the psychological significance of lifelong visual imagery vividness extremes. Cortex, 130, 426-440.
Zeman A, Milton F, Della Sala S, Dewar M, Frayling T, Gaddum J, Hattersley A, Heuerman-Williamson B, Jones K, MacKisack M, et al (2020). Phantasia - the psychological significance of lifelong visual imagery vividness extremes. Abstract.
Fulford J, Milton F, Salas D, Smith A, Simler A, Winlove C, Zeman A (2018). The neural correlates of visual imagery vividness - an fMRI study and literature review. Cortex, 105, 26-40.
Winlove C, Milton F, Ranson J, Fulford J, MacKisack M, Macpherson F, Zeman AZJ (2018). The neural correlates of visual imagery: a co-ordinate-based meta-analysis. Cortex, 105, 4-25.
MacKisack M, Aldworth S, Macpherson F, Onians J, Winlove C, Zeman A (2016). On Picturing a Candle: the Prehistory of Imagery Science. Front Psychol, 7 Abstract.  Author URL.
Winlove CIP, Roberts A (2012). The firing patterns of spinal neurons: in situ patch-clamp recordings reveal a key role for potassium currents. Eur J Neurosci, 36(7), 2926-2940. Abstract.  Author URL.
Winlove CIP, Roberts A (2011). Pharmacology of currents underlying the different firing patterns of spinal sensory neurons and interneurons identified in vivo using multivariate analysis. J Neurophysiol, 105(5), 2487-2500. Abstract.  Author URL.

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External Engagement and Impact

Crawford represents Education and Outreach for the British Neuroscience Association (BNA), and has been a Non-parent Governor, at Clyst Vale Community College since 2013.

Other roles include:

STEMM Ambassador, Devon Business Partnership                                        2010-ongoing   

Member, Selection Alliance, Medical Schools Council                                     2014 – ongoing

Board Member, “Character Education” Dept. of Education project                   2014-6   

Member, UK Clinical Aptitude Test Consortium                                                 2015 – ongoing

Expert Register, Science Media Centre                                                             2017-ongoing   

Society memberships

British Neuroscience Association (BNA)                                                   Joined 2008; Elected 2010

I am the Local Group Co-ordinator (Exeter and Plymouth)

Physiological Society                                                                                Joined 2006; Elected 2010   

I am a member of the Teaching Special Interest Group.

International Academy of Medical Science (IAMSE)                                 Joined 2011

I served on abstract review committees in 2012-15

British Science Association                                                                        Elected 2013    

International Behavioural Neuroscience Association                                 Elected 2014    

Crawford also co-ordinates the Medical School’s efforts to Widening Particpation, an area of work which seeks to redress the current reality that children growing up in disadvantage are about 22 times less likely to go to a Highly Selective University than other children (Social Mobility Foundation, 2014). 7% of the UK population studied at an Independent School, compared to 61% of those working in Medicine (Sutton Trust, 2012).

Behind such headlines, there are many ways of characterising disadvantage - all of them imperfect. Such measures can, however, help to prioritise our engagement with those in the greatest need. One such measure of deprivation is living in a Low Participation Neighbourhood (LPN1), defined as a Census ward that falls in the UK-wide bottom quintile for the rate at which its residents have participated in Higher Education.

At most Medical Schools in the UK, around 3% of Medical Students come from LPN1 areas. Under Crawford’s leadership, our sustained endeavours to widen participation have seen this figure rise from 4% to 18% amongst our newest entrants. Around 85% of our Medical Students attended a State School.

External funding has played a crucial role in this success, as exemplified by the Outbreak! Project funded by Health Education England. This project involved a series of six-week sessions in which 11-year-old children managed a hypothetical “global health crisis” – something like a virus outbreak. This crisis becomes the focus of all their classes: science classes look at the biology of viruses, whilst geography classes look at the afflicted country in detail, and so on. Crucially, the pupils’ decisions shape how the crisis unfolds, following the feedback of clinicians. Launched four years ago, our evaluation of the intervention’s impact on attitudes to learning, behaviour and attainment will shortly be submitted for publication.

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Crawford is the Director of the Neuroscience programme at the University of Exeter, having played a central role in every aspect of its design and development. The Neuroscience programme welcomed its first students in 2018.

The course was developed to realise our central commitment to research-engaged teaching. Our aim is not to simply share information, but rather to help students participate in the process of scientific discovery. Therefore, alongside formal teaching sessions, we encourage all our students to become active participants in our inter-disciplinary community.

Crawford has spent over 4000 hours delivering face-to-face teaching for Medical and Science students, for which he has received multiple awards and commendations.

He currently teaches on a range of modules, and convenes the final year module in Cognitive Neuroscience.

Crawford is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.



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