About Uta Frith

If you wonder about postnominals, here goes: Uta Frith, DBE, FRS, FBA, FmedSci, ML

Beginning with her doctoral work in the Sixties, Uta Frith has contributed to the transformation of developmental psychology into developmental cognitive neuroscience. She did this by applying paradigms from information processing theory and neuropsychology to the study of typical and atypical development in the case of autism and dyslexia. She proposed that deficits in critical cognitive mechanisms early in life result in the specific signs and symptoms in both these neurodevelopmental disorders.

In the case of autism, Uta contributed to two major cognitive theories. In the early 1980s, together with her colleagues Alan Leslie and Simon Baron-Cohen, she pioneered the idea of a circumscribed cognitive deficit in the ability to attribute mental states to self and others (mentalising) in autism. The 'mindblindness' theory has guided the successful search for the neural basis of mentalising and its failures. Uta Frith also proposed the theory of 'Weak central coherence' to explain superior perceptual and memory abilities in autism. This theory refers to a detail-focussed processing style, which is proposed to flourish at the expense of the drive for overall meaning. This idea, which was pursued mainly by Francesca Happé, and more recently, Sarah White, has directed attention to the cognitive strengths in autism and in particular to savant skills.

In the case of dyslexia, Uta Frith switched from a primarily visual theory to a phonological theory in the late 1970s. First with Maggie Snowling, and later with Franck Ramus, she has investigated the cognitive phenotype that is defined by persistent difficulties in accessing internally represented forms of words. In a cross-cultural European project with Eraldo Paulesu and Jean-Francois Demonet she showed that the brain basis of dyslexia in Italian, French and English is the same, while the manifestation of dyslexia in reading and spelling performance differs in the three countries.




UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience

17 Queen Square London WC1A 3AR UK

Date of birth: 25/05/1941





Web of Science: http://www.researcherid.com/rid/C-1757-2008


Dip. Abnormal Psychology 1966 Institute of Psychiatry, University of London, UK

PhD: 1968 Institute of Psychiatry, University of London, UK


2007 – 2015 Aarhus University Visiting Professor

2006 – Emeritus Professor of Cognitive Development, University College London, UK

1996 – 2006 Professor of Cognitive Development, University College London

1968 – 2006 MRC Scientist


Chair of Royal Society Working Group on Impact of Neuroscience on Education 2009-2011

Trustee of the Sir John Soane Museum, London, UK 2009-2014

Chair of jury for Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books 2013

Member of Jury for Klaus J Jacobs Prize, Zürich, 2015-

Member of Jury for Wellcome Trust Book Price 2015

Elected Member of Council Royal Society 2014-17

Chair of Diversity Committee Royal Society 2015-18

Member of Senate of the German National Academy Leopoldina 2016-


President of the British Science Association, 2017

Honorary Doctorate University of Bath, 2016

Honorary Doctorate University of Aston, 2015

Prix Jean Nicod, jointly with Chris Frith, 2014

William James Fellow Award, Association for Psychological Science, 2013

Honorary Fellow British Science Association, 2013

Honorary DBE, 2012

Honorary Degree Cambridge University, 2012

Foreign Associate of the National Academy of Sciences, 2012

Centre for Cognitive Science University of Turin: Mind and Brain Prize, 2010

Experimental Psychology Society 38th Sir Frederic Bartlett Lecture, 2010

European Latsis Prize, 2009

British Psychological Society The Research Board Life Time Achievement Award, 2009

Member of the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, 2008

Honorary Fellow Newnham College Cambridge, 2008

UKRC Women of Outstanding Achievement in SET, 2008

Foreign Member of the Royal Society of Arts and Sciences in Göteborg, 2008

Lifetime Achievement Award International Association for Autism Research, 2007

Samuel T. Orton Award International Dyslexia Association, 2007

Honorary Fellowship UCL, 2007

Honorary Doctorate University of Nottingham, 2007

Honorary Fellowship University College London, 2007

Elected Honorary Fellow of the British Psychological Society, 2006

President of the Experimental Psychology Society, 2006-08

Fellow of the Royal Society, 2005

Burghölzli Award, University of Zuerich, Deparment of Psychiatry, 2005

Robert Sommer Award, University of Giessen, Medical School, 2004

Honorary Doctorate, York University, 2004

Laurea Honoris Causa, Palermo University, 2004

Jean-Louis Signoret Prize of the Ipsen Foundation, 2003

Fellow of the British Academy, 2001

Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences, 2001

Honorary Doctorate, University of St Andrews, 2000

Honorary Doctorate, University of Göteborg, Sweden, 1998

Member of the Academia Europaea, 1992

The President's Award of the British Psychological Society, 1990


Frith, U. (1989/2003) Autism: Explaining the Enigma. Oxford: Blackwell

Frith, U. (1991) Autism and Asperger Syndrome. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Blakemore, SJ & Frith, U. (2005) The Learning Brain. Lessons for Education

The photo is by Rick Pushinsky and was taken for the FT At home feature written by Alicia Clegg, 11/12 October 2014.