Professor Uta Frith is best known for her research on autism spectrum disorders, which she studied since 1966. She was one of the initiators of the study of Asperger's Syndrome in the UK, and her work on reading development, spelling and dyslexia has been highly influential. Frith and colleagues first proposed the idea that people with autism have specific difficulties understanding other people’s beliefs and desires to explain their impairments in reciprocal social communication. To explain the non-social features of autism Frith introduced the notion of ‘weak central coherence’, which assumes that autistic individuals tend to be better than typical individuals at processing details but worse at integrating information from many different sources.
Throughout her career Frith has been developing a neuro-cognitive approach to developmental disorders. In particular, she has investigated specific cognitive processes and their failure in autism and dyslexia attempting to link them with specific brain systems. She has aimed to make this research relevant to the education of people with developmental disorders and to contribute to a better quality of their everyday life.
Professor Frith is a Fellow of the Royal Society, the British Academy, the Academy of Medical Sciences and is a Foreign Associate of the National Academy of Sciences. She is Emeritus Professor of Cognitive Development at University College London.