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About City

Claire Thomas Derwent

PhD student

Department of Psychology

Autism Research Group

E: claire.derwent@city.ac.uk

Thesis title: Relational memory in children with autism spectrum disorder and limited verbal ability

Supervisors: Professor Dermot Bowler and Dr Sebastian Gaigg

Overview and research interests

The hippocampus has been implicated in the specific memory difficulties found in autism spectrum disorder (ASD), such as slower learning of new material, and difficulties in using meaningful information about the relations between objects in order to aid recall of them. However, studies providing this evidence have tended to focus on higher-functioning verbally able individuals with ASD, in tests with verbal information, thereby limiting the generalisation of findings across the autism spectrum.

Claire's research aims to adapt existing behavioural paradigms used with animals to provide non-verbal measures of hippocampal function for use on verbal and non-verbal individuals with ASD, in order to provide evidence which implicates the hippocampus in difficulties in relational memory seen in ASD, and which can be generalised to memory in ASD as a whole. This would strengthen the view of ASD as (in part) a disorder of hippocampal function, and clarify the interaction between language, intellectual disability and relational memory in children with low-functioning ASD.

Research interests

  • Memory
  • Visual perception
  • Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
  • Intellectual disabilities

Claire has a BSc (Hons) Psychology from City University London.


Conference papers

  • Derwent, C.T., Gaigg, S.B., & Bowler, D.M. (2014). Visual paired comparison in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and limited verbal ability, Neurodevelopmental Disorders Seminar Series: Cognition and Behaviour, Durham University


  • Thomas, C.L., Gaigg, S.B, Ring, M. & Bowler, D.M. (2013). Gaze behaviour during visual paired comparison in adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Annual Meeting of the International Society for Autism Research (IMFAR),Donostia-San Sebastián, Spain
  • Thomas, C.L., Ring, M., Gaigg, S. & Bowler, D.M. (2013) Complex visual discrimination in individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Joint Cognitive Psychology Section & Developmental Psychology Section Annual Conference (CogDev); University of Reading
  • Thomas, C.L., Gaigg, S.B., Ring, M., & Bowler, D.M. (2013). Flexible relational processing and visual paired comparison in Autism Spectrum Disorder. Neurodevelopmental Disorders Seminar Series: Visual Attention and Eye Movements in Developmental Disorders, Newcastle University

Awards and grants

  • 2013: International Society for Autism Research (INSAR).Student Travel Award to support attendance at Annual Meeting of the International Society for Autism Research IMFAR
  • 2013: Neurodevelopmental Disorders Seminar Series (NDDS). Student Travel Award to support attendance at Visual Attention and Eye Movements in Developmental Disorders Seminar
  • 2010: Wellcome Trust. Undergraduate Vacation Research Scholarship 


  • PS1002 Professional and Academic Development for Psychologists
  • PS1003 Cognitive Approaches to Mind and Behaviour
  • PS1006 Lifespan Psychology
  • PS3022 Cognitive Development


Twitter: @cityarg (City Autism Research Group)