Academic Title

Associate Professor, Psychology and Neuroscience

Research Interests
  • Sleep
  • Neuroscience
  • Emotion
  • Memory
  • Traumatic Brain Injuries
  • Cognition
Research Summary

I research the neurological and behavioral functions of sleep. I particularly examine the role of sleep, and especially napping, in learning, memory and emotion, and how sleep physiology changes throughout development. My current research also examines factors that might influence or affect sleep, such as mTBIs (concussions), nutrition, exercise or brain disorders.

  • Ph.D., Neuroscience, UMass Amherst
  • M.S., Animal Behavior, Bucknell University
  • B.S., Zoology, University of Maryland
Areas of Expertise
  • Sleep
  • Emotion Regulation
  • Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries (Concussions)
  • Memory
  • Anxiety
  • Child Development
Recent Publications

Mason, G.M., Kurdziel, L.B.F., & Spencer, R.M.C. (2021). The memory benefits of two naps per day during infancy: A pilot investigation. Infant Behavior and Development.

Cohen, J. F. W., Sagar, K., Dahlgreen, M. K., Kurdziel, L. B. F., & Griber, S. A. (2020). The impact of micronutrient fortified foods on cognitive functioning among low-income children: A pilot study. Nutrients.

Kurdziel, L. B. F. (2019). The memory function of sleep across the lifespan. In V. Jha & S. Jha (Eds.), Sleep, Memory and Synaptic Plasticity. New York, NY: Springer Publisher. 1-39.

Kurdziel, L.B.F., Kent, J. & Spencer, R. M. C. (2018). Sleep dependent enhancement of emotional memory in early childhood. Scientific Reports, 8.

Press: Boston Globe, Science Daily, BBC, Medical, Medical News Bulletin, Child Trends (, among others

Cremone, A., de Jong, D., Kurdziel, L. B. F., Desrochers, P., Sayer, A., LeBourgeois, M., Spencer, R. M. C., and McDermott, J. (2017). “Sleep Tight, Act Right: Negative Affect, Sleep and Behavior Problems During Early Childhood.” Child Development.

Alhassan, S., Sirad, J., Kurdziel, L. B. F., Merrigan, S., Greever, C., and Spencer, R. M. C. (2017). “Cross-Validation of Two Accelerometers for Assessment of Physical Activity and Sedentary Time in Preschool Children.” Pediatric Exercise Science.

Spencer, R.M.C., Campanella, C. deJong, D., Desrochers, P., Root, H., Cremone, A., Kurdziel, L.B.F. (2016). “Sleep and Behavior of Preschool Children Under Typical and Nap-Promoted Conditions.” Sleep Health, 2, 1, 35-41.

Cremone, A., Kurdziel, L.B.F., Fraticelli, A., Spencer, R. M. C., McDermott, J. (2016). “Napping Reduces Emotional Attention Bias During Early Childhood.” Developmental Science.

Kurdziel, L.B., Duclos, K., and Spencer, R.M.C. (2013). “Learning Benefits From Classroom Naps in Preschools.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110, 43, 17267-17272.

Honors and Awards
  • NIH R21 Award #1R21HD106465-01 – Co-I – GamerFit: A Digital Intervention to Improve Physical Activity and Sleep Behaviors in Youth with Psychiatric Diagnoses (2022-2023)
  • Edward G. Roddy, Jr. Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award, Merrimack College (2023)
  • NIH R01 Award #1R01HD107492-01 – Consultant – Evaluation of a District-Wide Initiative to Improve School Meal Consumption and Physical Activity Levels among Elementary Students in Anchorage, Alaska (2021-2023)
  • Davis Educational Foundation Grant Co-PI, (2021-2022)
  • Provost Innovation Fund, Merrimack College, (2017-2018, 2019-2020, 2021-2022)
  • Zampell Family Faculty Fellow, Merrimack College, (2019-2020, 2021-2022)
  • Faculty Development Grant, Merrimack College, (2017-2018, 2019-2020)
  • Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Award, Society for Research in Child Development, 2015
  • Young Investigator Award, Pediatric Sleep Medicine, 2013
  • Vincent G. Dertier Award for Scholarship and Service , Neuroscience and Behavior Program, UMass Amherst, 2012
  • Distinguished Teaching Award, UMass Amherst, 2010