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Dr Catherine Purcell

Dr Catherine Purcell

Reader: Occupational Therapy

+44 (0)29 225 10961
Room 3.18b, Ty Dewi Sant, University Hospital of Wales, Heath Park, Cardiff, CF14 4XN
Media commentator
Available for postgraduate supervision


I am a Reader in the School of Healthcare Sciences. I am also the Lead for Research and Development in Occupational Therapy based in the School of Healthcare Sciences, and Associate Lead for the Population Health Research Theme, College of Biomedical and Life Sciences (BLS), Cardiff University. I lead the School's Optimising wellbeing and the management of long-term conditions: Children and Young People with Long-term Conditions Sub-Group, which aims to share the diversity of work being undertaken across the School relating to children and young people with long-term conditions. I sit on the core team for the Occupational Therapy Research and Evidence Based Practice Network (ORiENT), which aims to support a Welsh occupational therapy research environment and enable occupational therapists to undertake audit, service evaluation and research to improve outcomes for the people of Wales.

I am a psychologist with a special interest in research that explores the link between perception and action in natural contexts, such as driving and road crossing. I have a particular interest in perceptual motor coupling in children and adults with developmental disorders (including Developmental Coordination Disorder, Developmental Language Disorder, Dyslexia, ADHD and ASD). I have methodological expertise in eye tracking, movement analysis using 3D motion capture, virtual reality and psychophysics to characterise perceptual-motor coupling and I am currently leading an interdisciplinary funded project investigating neural correlates of Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD).

I collaborate with national and international leading academics in DCD and I am the UK representative on the formed International Society for Research in DCD (ISR-DCD) and co-chair.


I obtained my BSc (Hons) in Psychology in 2007 followed by my MSc in Cognitive Neuroscience and Research Methods in 2008 from the University of Durham. I then completed my PhD in 2012 at Royal Holloway, University of London on perceptual errors in predicting vehicle approach in typical and atypical populations.

I moved to Wales in 2012 to join the Dyscovery Centre as a Research Fellow, this enabled me to conduct research in a clinical setting alongside Occupational Therapists and other Allied Health Professionals.

I became a Senior Lecturer at the University of South Wales in 2015 and led several programmes within the psychology department, before moving to Cardiff University in August 2018 to join the Healthcare Sciences, Occupational Therapy team.

Professional memberships

  • Chartered Psychologist, Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society
  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

Academic positions

2018 - 2020: Senior Lecturer, Cardiff University

2012 - 2018: Senior Lecturer, University of South Wales












I am passionate about teaching and currently module lead a Level 5 research methods module on the BSc (Hons) Occupational Therapy programme, as well as a Level 7 research methods module for MSc students.

My current active grants and supervisory roles fall under two broad categories:

Developmental Disorders

  • Principle Investigator on a grant awarded by the Waterloo Foundation, investigating neural correlates of developmental coordination disorder (DCD)
  • Principle Investigator on a grant awarded by the Rees Jeffrey’s Road Fund to evaluate the efficacy of a augmented reality road safety educational game for children with Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD)
  • I am supervising a PhD student (Chelsea Courts) who is exploring the needs of service users with a co-existing mental health and neurodevelopmental disorder accessing Mental Health Services in Cwm Taf University Health Board


  • Principle Investigator on a grant awarded by the Road Safety Trust to create and test an augmented reality game-based road safety education game in Welsh primary schools.
  • I am supervising a PhD student (Helen Duncan) who is exploring the effect of receiving access arrangements in university exams on students with specific learning difficulties.
  • I have supervised a susccesful PhD student who explored the use of personality assessment for personal and professional development planning of teachers and support staff

Health and Social Care

  • I am supervising a PhD student (Savanna Cole) who is evaluating the Recovery Through Activity Framework used By Occupational Therapy In Mental Health Services In Aneurin Bevan University Health Board (ABUHB)
  • I am supervising a PhD student (Sara Pocknell) who is exploring therapy services across the cancer care pathway In Aneurin Bevan University Health Board (ABUHB) to develop service delivery options

Examples of previous research grants

  • 2017 – 2018: Principle Investigator on a grant awarded by the National Lottery to co-create authentic resources with parents/carers of children with neurodiverse profiles, for parents/carers of children with neurodiverse profiles.
  • 2014 – 2015: Consultant to Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research, Data and Methods (WISERD). To advise the WISERD Education team on the most effective ways of gathering data on issues to do with roads, neighbourhood safety and journeys to school and develop the appropriate research instruments
  • 2014 – 2015: Principle investigator on a grant awarded by the Richard Benjamin Trust to co-create four guides to success through the facilitation of focus groups with neurodiverse adults and a top tips and tricks booklet with children with neurodiverse profiles
  • 2014: Principle Investigator on a grant awarded by BBC Cymru Children in Need to facilitate four themed summer activity days for local children with Developmental Disorders
  • 2014 – 2015: Principle Investigator on a grant awarded by the Newport Community Endowment Fund to deliver a series of five practical evening workshops for parents of mainstream children with a developmental disorder who live in Newport
  • 2013 – 2016: Principle Investigator on a grant awarded by The Waterloo Foundation to measure the developmental readiness of 6-13 year old children with and without developmental disorders to acquire new knowledge and skills through different methods of teaching road safety.
  • 2013 – 2014: Co-Investigator on a grant awarded by the University of South Wales, exploring falls in adults with significant motor difficulties: Quantifying the incidence, severity and cost to the individual.
  • Co-Investigator on an ESRC funded follow-on project. Developed freely downloadable highly realistic demonstrations to enhancedriver awareness of perceptual errors in approach speed judgments for road crossing and decisions at junctions


I am currently supervising the following PhD students:

I’m interested in research relating to neurodevelopmental disorders (for example: Dyspraxia / Developmental Coordination Disorder; Developmental Language Disorder; Auttism Spectrum Conditions; Dyslexia) and independent safe mobility in a variety of contexts, such as road crossing and driving.

I am interested in supervising students in the areas of:

  • Methodologies such as virtual / augmented reality and experimental studies
  • Perception & action and the impact on occupation and / or function
  • Neurodevelopmental disorders and understanding the impact of living with hidden disabilities
  • The use of psychophysical procedures

Past projects

Research links