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BEAM Lab

Participate in our research

Participate in our research

If you would like to participate in our research please see the current studies below and contact the lab member involved.

Alternatively, if you would like to be considered in future research studies please contact Ellen or Emma.

Investigating optometric and orthoptic conditions in autistic adults

Limited research has been conducted to investigate the links between autism and optometric and orthoptic conditions; these involve those commonly considered in an eye examination, for example the level of vision, a requirement for spectacles and the coordination of the two eyes (e.g. lazy eye). Existing research suggests a greater need for spectacles and a higher number of eye-coordination problems in autistic children and mostly those with co-existing learning disabilities (co-existing learning disabilities carry their own risks of increased optometric and orthoptic anomalies). Little is known about the vision of adults with autism who do not have learning disabilities or their experience of visiting an optometrist.

In addition, visual symptoms such as hypersensitivity (e.g. dislike of certain lighting) and feelings of sensory overload are common in autistic individuals, but little previous research has fully characterised the range and type of these visual symptoms and also whether they might be linked to optometric and orthoptic eye conditions.

This project has two parts. Part one has investigated the visual experiences of autistic adults, how these impact daily life and their experience of an eye examination. This has formed the early groundwork for part two.

Part two will involve providing eye examinations for autistic adults to identify any commonly occurring optometric or orthoptic conditions, and exploring if these link at all to symptoms. Participants will need to fulfill the following criteria:

  • Aged 18 years or over
  • Have a formal diagnosis of autism
  • Not have a diagnosed learning disability
  • Able to travel to the University

You do not need to have an existing eye condition to take part. If you think your eyes and vision are okay, we would still like to see you.

For further information on this project, please email Ketan Parmar (ketan.parmar@postgrad.manchester.ac.uk)

Investigating timing processes in autism

Our sense of time and duration are essential to how we experience, and interact with, the world around us. There are many reports that autistic people experience and perceive time differently to non-autistic people. However, to date timing has not been well characterised in autism and the extent to which differences in timing may cause problems is unknown.

We are seeking volunteers for a research project which will systematically investigate the experience and perception of time in autism spectrum condition.

We are looking for volunteers who are:

  • aged between 18-45
  • have normal or corrected vision and hearing (glasses are OK)
  • native English speakers who are able to read written English and communicate verbally in English
  • have no first degree relatives with a diagnosis of autism (applies to non-autistic volunteers only)

All parts of the study will be conducted in the Zochonis Building, University of Manchester. Participants will be compensated for their time and reasonable travel expenses.

For more information, please contact us: autismtimeperceptionstudy@gmail.com

Movement in autism: Why is autism associated with poor movement ability and can this be used to diagnose autism?

Autism is primarily identified by differences in social and communication ability. However, a substantial body of evidence indicates that motor difficulties such as clumsiness, unstable balance and unusual walking style are also common in autism. Research in motor functioning is important because motor difficulties cause practical difficulties with daily tasks such as eating, dressing, and performing skilled movements, as in sports. Having poor motor skills also makes it more likely that a person will have poor social skills. In this study, we are asking autistic adults to copy different movements and perform simple movement tasks. We are doing this to find out more about why autistic people have motor difficulties and whether they can be used to help diagnose autism and design therapies.

For more information about this project please contact Andrius (andrius.vabalas@manchester.ac.uk).

Everyday movement in Parkinson’s disease

Studies in our lab have shown that people with Parkinson’s observe, imitate and imagine actions in a similar way to those without Parkinson’s. Research also suggests that these processes facilitate movement, especially when used in combination. We are investigating the potential use of observation, imitation and imagery to improve everyday actions that people with Parkinson’s may have difficulty with, as well as in therapeutic activities such as dancing.

For more information about this research, please contact Jude Bek (judith.bek@manchester.ac.uk).