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Dr Catherine Jones

Dr Catherine Jones

Senior Lecturer

School of Psychology

+44 (0)29 2087 0684
Tower Building, 70 Park Place, Cardiff, CF10 3AT

Research summary

My research falls into two broad categories. First, I have been exploring the cognitive phenotype of autism spectrum disorders (ASD), with a particular interest in how relatively basic perceptual processing mechanisms impact on cognition and behaviour. Second, I investigate temporal processing, with a focus on the neural mechanisms of motor and perceptual timing and how the experience of time can be distorted by factors in the environment. This encompasses investigation of timing behaviour in individuals with neurological (Parkinson’s disease) and developmental (ASD) disorders.

Undergraduate education

1997: BSc Psychology, University College London (First Class Honours)

Postgraduate education

2005: PhD Cognitive Neuroscience, UCL Institute of Neurology

My PhD focussed on the neural correlates of temporal  processing, testing patient populations (Parkinson’s disease and cerebellar disease) and using neuroimaging and transcranial magnetic stimulation to better understand motor and perceptual timing in the milliseconds and seconds-range.


I was employed as a research assistant in the MRC Human  Movement and Balance Unit, UCL Institute of Neurology on a project investigating temporal processing with Professor Marjan Jahanshahi. This led to a PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience in the Sobell Department of Motor Neuroscience and Movement Disorders, supervised by Professor Jahanshahi and Professor John  Rothwell.

Following my PhD I took a post-doctoral position with my former undergraduate supervisor, Professor Tony Charman, at the UCL Institute  of Child Health. I was employed to run a 3-year MRC funded project (Special Needs and Autism Project; SNAP) investigating the cognitive phenotype in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This was the largest investigation of its kind in the UK, testing 100 adolescents with ASD on over 50 measures of cognition and perception. My position was extended for a further 3 years and I moved with Professor Charman to the Institute of Education, where he founded the Centre for Research in Autism and Education.

In 2011 I began my first lectureship position at the Department  of Psychology, University of Essex, where I continued my research in both temporal processing and ASD. In May 2013 I moved to the School of Psychology, Cardiff University as a lecturer, where I work closely with the Wales Autism  Research Centre (WARC) then in 2015 I was promoted to Senior Lecturer.
















Research topics and related papers

Autism spectrum disorder
I have a broad interest in perception and cognition in  autism spectrum disorder (ASD), developed through my involvement in the Special Needs and Autism Project (SNAP) (Charman et al., 2011), a longitudinal  investigation of the clinical and psychological profile of ASD. My research has  encompassed many areas of cognition and perception, from emotion processing  (Jones et al., 2011a) and 'everyday’ memory (Jones et al., 2011b), through to basic visual and auditory processing (Jones et al., 2009a; Jones et al., 2011c), as well as academic attainment and reading comprehension (Jones et al., 2009b; Ricketts et al., 2013). I am currently using structural equation modelling to look more broadly at performance across different domains of  cognition and to investigate how cognition relates to behavioural symptoms. I am also involved as a collaborator with the next stage of SNAP, re-visiting the adolescents in early adulthood.

Outside of my involvement in SNAP, my research into ASD focuses on relatively basic perceptual processes. I believe that establishing atypicalities (or preserved performance) at a basic perceptual level is an essential step in understanding how and why higher-level cognitive and behavioural difficulties manifest in ASD. My focus is particularly on sensory, temporal and emotion processing and uses a range of psychological and psychophysiological techniques.

Temporal processing
Time is a fundamental part of the human experience. A typical morning may involve judging you are taking too long in the shower, estimating your kettle has boiled, and tapping in time to music on the radio. These temporal processes encompass both perceptual and motor timing in the range of milliseconds and seconds. I investigate which parts of the brain act as an 'internal clock’ and enable these precise calculations. With a particular focus on the basal ganglia, this has included both neuroimaging (Jahanshahi et al., 2006; Jahanshahi et al., 2010) and investigation of patients with  Parkinson’s disease and cerebellar disease (Jones et al., 2008; Jones et al., 2011d; Claassen et al., 2013).

My work has more recently expanded to consider how psychological  and physiological processes can distort the internal clock. Well-known phrases such as, 'Time flies when you are having fun’ and, 'A watched pot never boils’ are testament to our subjective sense that time can both speed up and slow down. These types of phenomena can be captured experimentally, for example by comparing temporal judgements of emotional and non-emotional stimuli.

Research collaborators

Temporal processing
Marjan Jahanshahi (UCL Institute of Neurology, UK), Daniel Claassen (Vanderbilt University, USA), Giacomo Koch (University of Rome Tor Vergata, Italy), Kielan Yarrow (City University London, UK)

Autism spectrum disorder

Wales Autism Research Centre
Special Needs and Autism Project: Tony Charman, Francesca  HappĂ©, Andrew Pickles, Emily Simonoff (Institute of Psychiatry, London, UK),  Gillian Baird (Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust)

Other: Sebastian Gaigg, Anna Lambrechts (City University London, UK), Debi Roberson, Tom Foulsham (University of Essex, UK)

Postgraduate research interests

I am happy to discuss projects in the area of autism spectrum disorder and/or temporal processing.

If you are interested in applying for a PhD, or for further information regarding my postgraduate research, please contact me directly (contact details available on the 'Overview' page), or submit a formal application.

Current students

Sarah Thompson (starting October 2013) Sarah will be using eye tracking to investigate face processing  in autism spectrum disorder.

Lydia Whitaker Lydia is based at the University of Essex and has been investigating aspects of face identity and face emotion processing in autism spectrum disorder