The Bloomsbury Colleges | PhD Studentships | Studentships 2012 | Modelling developmental trajectories in autism: combining clinical and computational approaches
Document Actions

Modelling Developmental Trajectories in Autism: Combining Clinical and Computational Approaches

Lead Supervisor: Professor Tony Charman (Institute of Education)

Co-Supervisor: Professor Michael Thomas (Birkbeck)

Over the past two decades there has been a remarkable change in our understanding of autism, in particular in terms of the heterogeneity of presentation - both from individual to individual and within any individual over development. As a consequence there is an increasing interest in the developmental processes not only that lead to the emergence of the condition but that affect the trajectory and ultimately the outcome of individuals across the lifespan.

The PhD brings together the different methodological and technical expertise of the two supervisors in order to develop a programme of work aimed at elucidating the influences on developmental trajectories in autism combining analysis of extant clinical datasets with computational modelling approaches. The technical skills required for longitudinal and cross-sectionalal data analysis are very similar to those required for the computational modelling of development.

Tony has been involved in several landmark longitudinal studies including the CHAT screening study, the SNAP prevalence study, the PACT trial and the BASIS cohort. Michael has developed novel approaches to studying developmental disorders, including studying development as a primitive and neurocomputational models to evaluate the candidate mechanisms for generating atypical trajectories in experience-dependent learning systems. Overall the project has the potential to generate important insights into the causes of autism and enhances the returns on the investment of previous research projects.


Candidates with an interest in statistics and statistical modelling and those with an interest in studying autism as a developmental condition will be welcomed. Specific training on conventional statistical modelling and computational modelling approaches will form part of the MPhil/PhD training.

Key References

Charman, T. (2010). Developmental approaches to understanding and treating autism. Folia Phoniatrica et Logopaedica, 62, 166-177

Charman, T., Jones, C. R. G., Pickles, A., Simonoff, E., Baird, G., Happe, F. (2011). Defining the cognitive phenotype of autism. Brain Research, 1380, 10-21.

Thomas, M. S. C., Annaz, D., Ansari, D., Serif, G., Jarrold, C., & Karmiloff-Smoth, A. (2009). Using developmental trajectories to understand developmental disorders. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 52, 336-358.

Thomas, M.S. C., Knowland, V. C. P., & Karmiloff-Smith, A. (2011). Mechanisms of developmental regression in autism and the broader phenotype: A neural network modeling approach. Psychological Review, 118, 637-654.

Further details about the project may be obtained from:

Lead Supervisor: Tony Charman,,

Co-Supervisor: Michael Thomas,,

Further information about PhDs at the Institute of Education is available from:


You should apply at the Institute via UKPASS. You will need to register for a UKPASS account, which is free of charge. Further details are below.

You should also submit to an up-to-date curriculum vitae (CV) and a piece of your own written work. This might be something you have written as coursework, or a publication (e.g. for a peer-reviewed journal).

Using UKPASS to apply for MPhil/PhD:

If you have not already done so, please make your application for doctoral study via the apply button on our PhD pages here:

When using UKPASS please ensure you apply for the correct course at the Institute: PhD Education (course code P010801).

Please also indicate on your UKPASS application that you are applying for a Bloomsbury Scholarship and write the following code under Student Support Arrangements: BCPHD: CHAR

If you have any queries about your application, please contact Doctoral Enquiries: 0207612 6103

If you have any further queries about the Bloomsbury Scholarships, please contact Alison Freeman:

Closing date for applications is Friday 9 March 2012