Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience


Developmental Diversity

The Developmental Diversity group investigates the workings of the autistic mind. The group is led by Dr Sarah White.

Sarah White

Group Leader

Sarah White Holding a Pink and Yellow Umbrella, Smiling at the Camera


+44 20 7679 1148



Developmental Diversity Research

We aim to understand the neurocognitive mechanisms underlying autism, how these can be modulated, and how these impact on other areas of development, in order to increase understanding of autism and associated conditions, inform support services, and improve the lives of autistic individuals and their families.

We work with lots of different people:
  • children, adolescents and adults
  • autistic people and their families
  • people with rare genetic syndromes associated with autism (e.g. Fragile X Syndrome, Cornelia de Lange Syndrome)
  • people with a range of autistic traits
We use a wide range of techniques in our research:
  • behavioural observation
  • cognitive assessments
  • neuropsychological tests
  • eye-tracking
  • brain imaging methods (fMRI, fNIRS)
Our research is funded by:
  • The Royal Society
  • The Academy of Medical Sciences
  • The Baily Thomas Charitable Fund
  • The Experimental Psychology Society
  • The China Scholarship Council

​​​​​​Group Members

Post-Doctoral Research Fellows

Ceci Qing Cai

Cece Qing Cai smiling at the camera holding a plush octopus on her head


PhD Students

Nevin Ozden

Nevin Ozden smiling at the camera


My research interests are episodic future thinking and its relationship with cognitive factors in autistic children.


Ruihan Wu 

Ruihan Wu smiling at the camera


My research interests are the construction of mentalising and its relationship with potential socio-cognitive factors. During my PhD, I am primarily exploring the cognitive mechanism and neural correlates of implicit mentalising and the interrelationship between implicit and explicit mentalising in both neurotypical and clinical populations, such as individuals with autism. I am also investigating potential factors that can be related to the performance of implicit and explicit mentalizing, such as culture, social motivation and social engagement. Techniques I use include behavioural measures, eye-tracking and electroencephalography (EEG)/ functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). 

Research Assistants

Gillian Hughes

Gillian Hughes smiling at the camera


Gillian joined the lab in 2021 for her MSc thesis where she explored the relationship between implicit mentalising and autistic traits in women with the fragile x premutation. She completed her MSc in psychological sciences at UCL in September 2022 and has continued to work as a research assistant in the Development Diversity Lab.

Imogen Krell

Imogen Krell smiling at the camera


Imogen joined the lab in 2020 for her MSc thesis, exploring how deception detection abilities differ between neurotypical and autistic populations and the effect this may have on bullying. She has stayed on in the lab to work as a research assistant, having enjoyed her time as a master’s student so much! She currently is assisting David Ruttenberg on the SensorAble project.

Maryna Nosyk

Maryna Nosyk smiling at the camera


Maryna joined the lab in 2017 as an MRes student. Maryna’s research interests are in individual differences in implicit mentalizing in the ASD group compared to neurotypical individuals.

Anushay Mazhar

Anushay Mazhar smiling at the camera


Anushay is a part-time research assistant at the lab, where she leads the Culture project, that investigates mentalising differences in autistic and non-autistic children from the UK and Pakistan. She is also doing a PhD at University of Oxford in Education (Early Childhood).

Affiliate members

Katherine Ellis 

Katherine Ellis looking into the camera, wearing doctoral graduate robe and hat


My research aims to understand social and emotional difficulties experienced by individuals with genetic syndromes associated with intellectual disability and autism. To date, my research has focused on how differences in social cognitive development, as well as sensory processing, may underpin differences in social and emotional functioning observed in these groups. I hope to develop sensitive diagnostic tools and targeted interventions based on detailed descriptions of causal mechanisms between genetic abnormality, to neurobiological and cognitive phenotypes, and behaviour within each syndrome.