FIF supports Department of Psychology project into autism and borderline personality disorder

BU researchers in the Department of Psychology in SciTech have been awarded nearly £20,000 from the Fusion Investment Fund’s Co-Creation & Co-Production strand. In an exciting collaboration with the Autism Research Centre at the University of Cambridge, Dorset Healthcare University NHS Trust and Arts University Bournemouth, Dr Nicola Gregory and Dr Helen Bolderston, assisted by four BU student research assistants, will be using eye tracking technology to examine the links between two psychological disorders – autism and borderline personality disorder.

Dr Gregory explained: “Most people are probably aware that people with Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD) have difficulties understanding social situations and research shows that people with the condition seem to look less towards the faces of others, and particularly their eyes, than people without the disorder. We can tell a lot about how someone is thinking or feeling by paying attention to their faces and their eyes in particular, and it seems that in ASD, the reduced looking towards faces and difficulties understanding the subtleties of social interactions are probably linked. People with borderline personality disorder (BPD), which is the most common personality disorder, seem almost to be at the other extreme to people with autism in terms of interpreting others thoughts and feelings. BPD, like ASD, affects people’s social interactions, but in BPD, people tend to over-interpret what others are thinking, thinking people will hurt them or abandon them and seem to be on the lookout for the negative thoughts of others a lot of the time. In this project we are aiming to discover if people with BPD and people with autism look at social interactions differently and whether the way they view social situations impacts on how they then think about them. We’ll be creating a series of short videos of social situations and playing them back to people whilst we record where they look. We think that there may be a link between how people understand what is going on in the scenes and how much they look towards the eyes of the actors, and we think we might find opposite behaviour in people with ASD and BPD.

We’re excited to be working with Professor Simon Baron-Cohen at the Autism Research Centre at University of Cambridge on this project. We’re particularly pleased to be able to involve so many students – more than 50 – in the creation and production of this research and that’s in addition to the research participants we’ll be recruiting later in the year. We are looking for current BU and AUB students to act in the scenes in November, no experience necessary! Any interested people should contact“.

The research will form the basis of an ongoing programme of work with BU, Dorset NHS Trust and the University of Cambridge.

2 Responses to “FIF supports Department of Psychology project into autism and borderline personality disorder”

  1. Chris Scholes

    Are you using BU’s AS students in your research? We have a lot registered with ALS (Additional Learning Support and Disability Services).

    ALS students have volunteered for quite a bit of research over the past years and nearly 2,000 registered students with disabilities gives a lot of scope!

    Also, ALS staff who work on a one-to-one basis teaching and mentoring disabled students would be well placed and keen to offer support to any researchers. We have valuable expertise and knowledge of behaviours and lived experiences to offer.

  2. ngregory

    Hi Chris,

    Thanks for your comment! We are planning on expanding our database of participants with autism this coming year and we will definitely be approaching the ALS service to look for potential volunteers. It’s great to hear that the ALS service is geared-up for this, so thanks for the suggestion!