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Dr Catherine Jones

Dr Catherine Jones

Senior Lecturer and Director of WARC

School of Psychology

Email
jonescr10@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone
+44 (0)29 2087 0684
Campuses
Tower Building, 70 Park Place, Cardiff, CF10 3AT
Users
Available for postgraduate supervision

Overview

Research summary

I am the Director of the Wales Autism Research Centre and my work is driven by the aim of improving understanding of autism and supporting better outcomes for autistic people. I have a particular interest in how relatively basic perceptual processing mechanisms impact on cognition and behaviour, as well as in how autism is perceived and understood.

Current projects include improving knowledge of the signs of autism and attitudes towards autism among frontline professionals and the public. This work is in collaboration with Welsh Government's National Autism Team and several European countries. Our award-winning educational film can be viewed here. My PhD research on temporal processing has continued with interest in the temporal perception and production of autistic people, including how these processes may relate to social communication. I also have a research focus on sensory processing, and we are conducting novel research in our purpose-built Multi-Sensory Environment, which is housed within CUCHDS. I am also interested in the complex issue of co-occurrence in autism and we are exploring the overlap between autism and anorexia nervosa as part of the SEDAF project.

Biography

Undergraduate education

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

Postgraduate education

2005: PhD Cognitive Neuroscience, UCL Institute of Neurology

Employment

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 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 of autism. 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 UCL 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 autism. In May 2013, I moved to the School of Psychology, Cardiff University as a lecturer, and in 2015 was promoted to Senior Lecturer. I became Director of the Wales Autism Research Centre in April 2019.

Honours and awards

Awards/external committees

2021- to date: Member, Welsh Government Autism National Advisory Group

2019- to date: Director, Evidence to Impact

2019: Healthcare Award at Cardiff University’s 21st Innovation and Impact Awards

2019: People’s Choice Award at Cardiff University’s 21st Innovation and Impact Awards

2019- 2020: Member, Welsh Government Assessment and Diagnosis Technical Group – Code of Practice for Autism

2018- to date: Member, Welsh Government Autism Spectrum Disorder Strategic Action Plan – Implementation Advisory Group

2017- to date: Scientific Review Panel, Autistica

2015:  The Employability Award, Enriching Student Life Awards, Cardiff University

Professional memberships

Graduate Member of the British Psychological Society

International Society for Autism Research

Experimental Psychology Society

British Association for Cognitive Neuroscience

Publications

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Teaching

A undergraduate level (Psychology BSc), I am part of the teaching team delivering lectures and practicals for the Year 2 Developmental psychology module and also supervise final year projects.

At postgraduate level, I teach on the Master's in Children's Psychological Disorders. I am module co-ordintor for Neurodevelopmental disorders: Cognition and emotion, deliver a workshop on assessment in autism, and supervise dissertations.

In a teaching administrative capacity, I am one of the Year 1 Co-ordinators and the Postgraduate research (PGR) Teacing Co-ordinator.

Research topics

I believe that establishing both strengths and weaknesses at a basic perceptual level is an essential step in understanding how and why higher-level cognitive and behavioural difficulties or differences manifest in autism. My focus is particularly on sensory, temporal and emotion processing and uses a range of psychological and psychophysiological techniques. A key focus of my research in recent years has been on sensory processing in autism. Our purpose-build multi-sensory environment (commonly known as a sensory room), donated by Mike Ayres Design, is enabling novel research into the experience of multi-sensory environments for autistic people. Another strand of research builds on my background in temporal processing and focuses on the role that social synchrony, which is the spontaneous temporal alignment of behaviours that contribute to social communication, plays in some of the challenges autistic people can face when interacting with others.

Alongside this research, I am also interested how autism is perceived by both frontline professionals and the public, with a focus on the understanding of and attitudes towards autism. Our evidence-based educational film on the 'signs' of autism can be viewed on the Welsh Government's National Autism Team website. This work dovetails with work on developing instruments to help in the measurement of and identification of autistic traits, including the Signposting Questionnaire for Autism (SQ-A) (Jones et al., 2020) and the Adult Repetitive Behaviours Questionnaire (RBQ-2A) (Barret et al., 2015; Barret et al., 2018). Our Repetitive  Behaviour Questionnaires can be freely access under the 'Resources' tab on the Wales Autism Research Centre website.

A final strand of work concerns co-occurrence in autism. In particular, we are exploring the overlap between autism and anorexia nervosa as part of the SEDAF project, including consideration of the way in which eating disorder services can best meet the needs of the autistic people in their care.

Supervision

Postgraduate research interests

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 PhD students

Charlotte Babb: Towards a succssefull treatment of anorexia nervosa in autistic women. Co-supervisor (40%) with Dr John Fox. Autistica funded project based at UCL and Cardiff University, for more details see: https://sedaf18.blogspot.com/ 

Claire Bowsher-Murray: Social synchrony in autism. Co-supervisor (50%) with Dr Elisabeth von dem Hagen.

Eleni Glarou: Understanding multi-party communication in therapy sessions for children with autism and sensory processing difficulties (part of supervisory team led by Dr Lucy Brookes-Howell and including Dr Rachel McNamara and Prof Monica Busse)

Current supervision

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Claire Bowsher-Murray

Research student

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Charlotte Babb

Research student

Past projects

Katy Unwin: (2015-2019) Doctoral dissertation: A sequential mixed-methods approach to exploring the use of multi-sensory environments with autistic children. Primary supervisor with Dr Georgina Powell.

Zoe Williams: (2014-2018) Doctoral dissertation: The overlap between attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and autism spectrum disorder symptoms and thier association with reading skills and social cognition ability. Second supervisor with Dr Kate Langley.

Sarah Thompson: (2013-2017) Doctoral dissertation: Measuring the bias to look to the eyes in individuals with and without autism spectrum disorder. Primary supervisor with Professor Sue Leekam.

Sarah Barrett: (2013-2016) Doctoral dissertation: Is there a relationship between imagination and repetitive behaivours in autistic adults? Second supervisor with Professor Sue Leekam.

Lydia Whitaker: (2011-2013) Doctoral dissertation: Are impairments in facial expression of emotion processing related to a lack of attention to the eye area in children with autism spectrun disorder? Second supervisor with Dr Debi Roberson.