Posts By / ngregory

BU study seeks participants with autism

Back in September 2015, Dr Helen Bolderston and I from the Department of Psychology, were awarded a Fusion Investment Fund award to examine social cognition and visual attention in people with autistic spectrum disorders and borderline personality disorder.

The study is now well under way and we are seeking participants between the ages of 18- 50 years with an autistic spectrum disorder to take part. Students and staff with such a diagnosis would be most welcome to be involved. It should go without saying that participation is confidential and responses are anonymous. The sessions take around 1.5 hours to complete and we can reimburse your local travel expenses if required. We are also always on the look out for “neurotypical” control participants too, particularly  men!

The study uses eye tracking technology to record where participants look on a computer screen whilst they watch a series of social scenarios. Afterwards, we ask participants questions about what happened in the scenes. There a several additional tasks which form part of the study which include questionnaires about social and communication skills and some verbal and non-verbal reasoning tasks.

Anyone interested in taking part should contact me, Dr Nicola Gregory, at

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.