Who am I?  

I have been Emeritus Professor of Cognitive Development at UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience since 2006. I have been a Visiting Professor at the University of Aarhus at the Interacting Minds Centre from 2007 to 2015I have been a Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies at the Central European University in Budapest (February - June 2014). From 1998 to 2008 I was Deputy Director of the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, and before this I was a member of two MRC Units affiliated to UCL, The MRC Developmental Psychology Unit (1968-1982) and the MRC Cognitive Development Unit (1982-1998). 

What am I doing? Some of my time is now spent trying to write a book with Chris Frith on "What makes us social". We want to draw together what is known about evolution, development and pathology of social cognition. But we are also working towards a graphic novel with the same content. Our son, Alex Frith is supervising this project as author and director; Daniel Locke is the artist. We also post random pieces of this and that on our frithmind blog

I am still as fascinated as ever with autism and with dyslexia. in 2014 I enjoyed making the BBC2 Horizon programme "Living with autism".  This gave me a taste for being more active in science communication. In 2015 I presented a BBC2 Horizon documentary on OCD "A monster in my mind";  in 2017 a documentary on "What makes a psychopath" You can probably catch these programmes on YouTube. 

What else would you like to know?

You can have a look up my publications in various places. Here is a bibliography from 2008, when my friends and colleagues produced a Festschrift called neuro-cognitive approach to developmental disorders. My two favourite disorders are autism and dyslexia, because they are puzzling and endlessly fascinating and also because they promise to give us a glimpse of the hidden machinery of the mind. I have used methods from experimental psychology and neuropsychology. These helped me to investigate quite daringly, and often controversially, some very high-level cognitive processes, such as "Theory of Mind", "Drive for Central Coherence", "Phonological awareness". I tried to find out whether these processes contained clues to some of the core features of autism and dyslexia. My ambition was to discover the underlying cognitive causes of these disorders and to link them to behaviour on the one hand and to the brain on the other. I also tried to make my research relevant to understanding some of the daily struggles of individuals with developmental disorders and their families. It is very doubtful whether I got anywhere near these lofty goals.

My past work was funded by the Medical Research Council. Some details of the research and publications are available via the links on the left. My outstanding colleagues and collaborators  are continuing this research in many different and creative ways.

Life beyond autism and dyslexia?

I have become interested in making neuroscience research relevant to education and learning throughout the life span. With Sarah-Jayne Blakemore I wrote a book "The learning brain, Lessons for education", published 2005. In 2010-11 I chaired a Working Group for the Royal Society in their series Brainwaves: Neuroscience, Society and Policy. We had some fruitful discussions across the divide of neuroscientists, teachers, and policy makers. We found that it is crucial that a common language is developed to bridge laboratory based experiments and classroom practice. A web based forum would be a good step in this direction. We have produced a report entitled "Neuroscience: implications for education and lifelong learning". Here is a printer friendly version, and a summary. You can also hear me give a short but passionate speech about the need for a dialogue between teachers and neuroscientists. This was in July 2014.

Another of my late acquired interests is the advancement of women in science. I am championing high-flying, hard-working women who juggle family and career can talk to each other by a support network that I called science&shopping. I want to encourage women to share ideas and information that are inspiring and fun. An offshoot of this network, is UCLWomen.org. The Steering committee includes Sally Day (chair), Helen Wilson (treasurer), Kate Jeffery (venues), and Jennifer Rohn (website). We meet over lunch at irregular intervals with informal talks on any aspect of life and work. This includes wine tasting, speed dating and media experience. 

Since 2015 I am chair of the Royal Society's Diversity Committee. This made me think much more seriously about equality, fairness and diversity in general. I wrote a brief guide on Unconscious bias which you can download from the Royal Society's website/ You can also see an accompanying 3-minute animation on YouTube. 

In 2017 I was delighted and proud to become President of the British Science Association

Contact details

e-mail is best: u.frith @ ucl.ac.uk

Hauke Hillebrandt,
7 Oct 2011, 04:59