Research Associate in Exploring the Brain Basis of Savant Talent in Autism

University of Cambridge

We are looking to appoint a research associate for two years to work on a project exploring the brain basis of savant talent in autism. The project will include cognitive neuroscientific techniques (e.g. using MRI, experimental psychological, and questionnaire measures) with autistic and non-autistic individuals with or without savantism.

The aim of the project is to map neural connectivity and other differences in the brains of autistic and non-autistic individuals with and without savant skills, linked to other types of data. MRI will measure brain structure, resting state and task-activated function, and white matter DTI. Scanning will take place in Cambridge at the Wolfson Brain Imaging Centre. This study focuses on one of the positive features of some autistic individuals and has the potential to explain not just the remarkable talents seen in a minority of autistic people but the strengths in autistic people more broadly.

Savantism in autism has been studied before but this new project aims to do this in larger samples than has previously been achieved, and to address the question as to whether different forms of savantism in different psychological domains (e.g., memory, attention, or sensory) or content domains (e.g., music, numerical, visual) share a common basis in the mind (e.g., pattern recognition) and brain (function and/or structure).

The post holder will work with the Principal Investigator (Professor Simon Baron-Cohen), and other members of the Autism Research Centre. Ability to interact and communicate effectively with researchers is essential. Applicants should have (or be about to obtain) a PhD in a relevant subject and have previous experience with MRI. During the pandemic brain scanning is continuing in Cambridge, with a proven health and safety protocol, and there is an adequate budget to recruit savants who may be quite rare, to come to Cambridge for testing. The post holder will be involved in all stages of the research, from design, consultation with the autism community, obtaining ethical approval, data collection, analysis, writing articles and conference presentations.

Informal enquiries may be directed to Dr Richard Bethlehem (

For questions related to visa applications related to this role, please contact

Once an offer of employment has been accepted, the successful candidate will be required to undergo an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service check and a security check.

Fixed-term: The funds for this post are available for 2 years in the first instance.

Click the 'Apply' button below to register an account with our recruitment system (if you have not already) and apply online.

Closing date: 20th April 2021.

Please ensure that you upload your Curriculum Vitae (CV) and a covering letter in the Upload section of the online application. The covering letter should outline how you match the criteria for the post and why you are applying for this role. If you upload any additional documents which have not been requested, we will not be able to consider these as part of your application.

Please include details of your referees, including e-mail address and phone number, one of which must be your most recent line manager

Please quote reference RN26054 on your application and in any correspondence about this vacancy.

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