Dr Megan Freeth
PhD (Nottingham), MSc (Nottingham), BSc (Birmingham)
Social attention in the real world
I am interested in how people attend to the world around them. What grabs attention, and what impact does this have on other aspects of cognition? If we miss key information from our visual environments then our internal construct of the world will be less than optimal. My main interest lies in how people attend to others and use the verbal and non-verbal social cues they generate. I am interested in both how typically developing people attend to this information and how individuals with clinical and sub-clinical traits, such as autism and social anxiety, attend to this information. I use mobile and laboratory based eye-tracking technology to try to understand what guides attention.
The neural basis of social attention
I am interested in how the brain processes social cue information. I am currently using electroencephalography (EEG) equipment to find out how the brain responds during tasks which require participants to use social and non-social cues, such as eye-gaze direction and arrows. Individuals with autism fail to detect the social and communicative salience of others’ eyes and also use eye gaze cues in an atypical manner. This area of work aims to investigate whether the neural basis of these differences can be identified.
The expression of autism in rare genetic syndromes
Autism is an extremely heterogeneous condition. Some of this variability results from genetic heterogeneity. Some rare genetic conditions appear to have an increased prevalence of autism. We are currently investigating the phenotype of growth disorders with a known genetic cause, such as Sotos syndrome, Russell-Silver syndrome, Weaver syndrome and Tatton-Brown Rahman syndrome with the aim of improving understanding of both rare genetic conditions and autism.
Please see the Sheffield Autism Research lab (ShARL) page
PSY345 Atypical Brain Development and Degeneration (Module Organiser)
PSY1002 Cognitive Psychology I
PSY233 Cognitive Psychology II
PSY331 Extended essay supervisor
PSY346 Project supervisor
PSY6121 Research Methods
Psychology department Director of Recruitment
Grants and Awards
The Children's Hospital Charity (Sheffield Children's Hospital) and The University of Sheffield (May 2019 - October 2020). Sensory profiles in genetic syndromes associated with autism £32,112
Baily Thomas research grant (July 2017 - April 2019). Cognition and Behaviour in Weaver syndrome and Tatton-Brown Rahman syndrome £53,718
Child Growth Foundation (September 2017 - August 2018). Characteristics of Autism in Russell-Silver Syndrome £8,370
Baily Thomas research grant (Dec 2016 - Nov 2017). Why do individuals with Sotos syndrome struggle with maths? £4,707
Experimental Psychology Society Small Grant (April 2015- April 2016). Face to Face Social Attention in Autism. £2,500
Experimental Psychology Society Small Grant (Jan 2013-Jan2014). Gaze following and the broad autism phenotype. £2,500
Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship (Mar 2011-Mar 2013). Social Attention in Autism. £177,351
NCRM Training bursary – to attend EEGlab workshop, San Diego (Nov 2010). £985
Wellcome Trust Value in People award (Oct 2010-Mar 2011). £15,000
ESRC Post Doctoral Fellowship (Sept 2009-Sept 2010). Social Cognition in Typically Developing Individuals and those with Autism Spectrum Disorders using EEG and Eye-tracking Techniques. £72,426
Current postdoctoral researchers
- Dr Chloe Lane - Sensory profiles in genetic conditions associated with autism
Current research supervision
- PhD primary supervisor - Nazli Altin; Emma Morgan
- PhD co-supervisor - Aikaterini Giannadou
- DClin supervisor - Amber-Sophie Dugdale; Rosie Wilson
- MSc supervisor
Previous research supervision
- PhD primary supervisor - Chloe Lane; Caroline Treweek
- PhD co-supervisor - James Simpson; Ciara Kelly; Keelan Meade; Tom Hostler; Stephanie Dunn
- DClin supervisor - Alex Leedham
The Eyes Have it All Elements (science) article featuring my work
Improving public perceptions of autism - Your Autism Magazine Spring 2016 (National Autistic Society)
A list of key publications can be found below. Or see the full list of publications.
Lane, C., & Freeth, M. (2019). Sotos syndrome. In O. Binda (Ed.) Chromatin Signalling and Neurological Disorders. Elsevier. pp. 219-234.
Lane, C. & Freeth, M. (2017). Sotos syndrome and ASD. In F. R. Volkmar (Ed.) Encyclopedia of Autism Spectrum Disorders. Springer, New York
Freeth, M., Milne, E., Sheppard, E., & Ramachandran, R. (2014). Autism across cultures: Perspectives from non-Western cultures and implications for research. In F. Volkmar, R. Paul, K. Pelphry, S. Rogers (Ed.) The Handbook of Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorders (4th ed.). Wiley
- Simpson J, Thwaites K & Freeth M (2019) Understanding visual engagement with urban street edges along non-pedestrianised and pedestrianised streets using mobile eye-tracking. Sustainability, 11(15). View this article in WRRO
- Lane C, Milne E & Freeth M (2019) The cognitive profile of Sotos syndrome. Journal of Neuropsychology, 13(2), 240-252. View this article in WRRO
- Freeth M, Leedham A & Thompson A (2019) ‘I was exhausted trying to figure it out’: The experiences of females receiving an autism diagnosis in middle to late adulthood. Autism. View this article in WRRO
- Kelly C, Morgan G, Freeth M, Siegal M & Matthews D (2019) The Understanding of Communicative Intentions in Children with Severe-to-Profound Hearing Loss. The Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education. View this article in WRRO
- Lane C, Van Herwegen J & Freeth M (2019) Exploring the approximate number system in Sotos syndrome: insights from a dot comparison task. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research. View this article in WRRO
- Lane C, Van Herwegen J & Freeth M (2018) Parent-Reported Communication Abilities of Children with Sotos Syndrome: Evidence from the Children’s Communication Checklist-2. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. View this article in WRRO
- Simpson JC, Freeth M, Simpson K & Thwaites K (2018) Visual engagement with urban street edges: insights using mobile eye-tracking. Journal of Urbanism: international research on placemaking and urban sustainability, 12(3), 259-278. View this article in WRRO
- Treweek C, Wood C, Martin J & Freeth M (2018) Autistic people’s perspectives on stereotypes: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. Autism: the international journal of research and practice. View this article in WRRO
- Morgan E, Freeth M & Smith DT (2018) Mental State Attributions Mediate the Gaze Cueing Effect. Vision, 2(1). View this article in WRRO
- Freeth M & Bugembe P (2018) Social partner gaze direction and conversational phase; factors affecting social attention during face-to-face conversations in autistic adults?. Autism. View this article in WRRO
- Lane C, Milne E & Freeth M (2017) Characteristics of Autism Spectrum Disorder in Sotos Syndrome. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 47(1), 135-143. View this article in WRRO
- Wood C & Freeth M (2016) Students’ Stereotypes of Autism. Journal of Educational Issues, 2(2), 131-140. View this article in WRRO
- Dunn SA, Freeth M & Milne E (2016) Electrophysiological Evidence of Atypical Spatial Attention in Those with a High Level of Self-reported Autistic Traits. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 46(6), 2199-2210. View this article in WRRO
- Heaton TJ & Freeth M (2016) Reduced visual exploration when viewing photographic scenes in individuals with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 125(3), 399-411. View this article in WRRO
- Lane C, Milne E & Freeth M (2016) Cognition and Behaviour in Sotos Syndrome: A Systematic Review. PLoS ONE, 11(2). View this article in WRRO
- Freeth M & Vabalas A (2016) Patterns of Eye Movements in Face to Face Conversation are Associated with Autistic Traits:Evidence from a Student Sample. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 46(1), 305-314. View this article in WRRO
- Freeth M, Sheppard E, Ramachandran R & Milne E (2013) A cross-cultural comparison of autistic traits in the UK, India and Malaysia.. J Autism Dev Disord, 43(11), 2569-2583.
- Milne E, Dunn SA, Freeth M & Rosas-Martinez L (2013) Visual search performance is predicted by the degree to which selective attention to features modulates the ERP between 350 and 600ms.. Neuropsychologia, 51(6), 1109-1118.
- Freeth M, Foulsham T & Kingstone A (2013) What affects social attention? Social presence, eye contact and autistic traits.. PLoS One, 8(1), e53286. View this article in WRRO
- Freeth M, Bullock T & Milne E (2013) The distribution of and relationship between autistic traits and social anxiety in a UK student population.. Autism, 17(5), 571-581.
- Risko EF, Laidlaw K, Freeth M, Foulsham T & Kingstone A (2012) Social attention with real versus reel stimuli: toward an empirical approach to concerns about ecological validity.. Front Hum Neurosci, 6, 143. View this article in WRRO
- Freeth M, Ropar D, Mitchell P, Chapman P & Loher S (2011) Brief Report: How Adolescents with ASD Process Social Information in Complex Scenes. Combining Evidence from Eye Movements and Verbal Descriptions. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 41(3), 364-371. View this article in WRRO
- Freeth M, Foulsham T & Chapman P (2011) The influence of visual saliency on fixation patterns in individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Neuropsychologia, 49, 156-160. View this article in WRRO
- Freeth M, Chapman P, Ropar D & Mitchell P (2010) Do gaze cues in complex scenes capture and direct the attention of high functioning adolescents with ASD? Evidence from eye-tracking.. J Autism Dev Disord, 40(5), 534-547. View this article in WRRO
- Freeth M, Ropar D, Chapman P & Mitchell P (2010) The eye gaze direction of an observed person can bias perception, memory, and attention in adolescents with and without autism spectrum disorder.. J Exp Child Psychol, 105(1-2), 20-37. View this article in WRRO
- Beck SR, Robinson EJ & Freeth MM (2008) Can children resist making interpretations when uncertain?. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 99(4), 252-270.
- Lane C, Robinson L & Freeth M () Autistic traits and cognitive abilities associated with two molecular causes of Silver-Russell syndrome. Journal of Abnormal Psychology.
- Lane C & Freeth M (2019) Sotos syndrome, Chromatin Signaling and Neurological Disorders (pp. 219-234). Elsevier
Conference proceedings papers
- Dunn S, Freeth M & Milne E (2015) ERP evidence of reduced spatial selectivity in those with high levels of self-reported autistic traits. PERCEPTION, Vol. 44 (pp 294-295)
- Freeth M & Vablas A (2015) Temporal dynamics of social attention in face-to-face situations. PERCEPTION, Vol. 44 (pp 78-79) View this article in WRRO