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Matthew Belmonte

Associate Professor / Reader

School of Social Sciences

Staff Group(s)
Psychology

Role

Matthew Belmonte (CV) is a visiting researcher at the Com DEALL Trust, Bangalore, and a Reader in Psychology at NTU, studying relationships between social cognition and prerequisite domain-general processes of cognitive, motor and perceptual control within and beyond the autism spectrum.  Belmonte's research asks how domain-general cognitive capacities shape the developmental emergence of both social and non-social perception, cognition and action-- giving rise to individual differences therein and autistic variations or disorders thereof.  (Prospective students, see details under the 'Research' heading below.)  His teaching experience spans continents and cultures, and includes scientific writing and communication; computer science, automata theory and the logical development computer programs; cognitive and developmental cognitive neuroscience, computational neuroscience, biological psychology, behavioural research methods, and brain imaging (fMRI and high-density EEG).

Career overview

Belmonte's research and teaching posts have included the University of Cambridge, Cornell University, and the National Brain Research Centre (India).

Research areas

Dr Belmonte accepts students with interests in the following (representative) areas, using behavioural and / or cognitive neurophysiological methods:

  • Behavioural, neurophysiological and epidemiological aspects of the relationship between individualistic/collectivistic cultures, autistic traits, cognitive sex differences, and psychological distance and level of construal
  • Behavioural and neurophysiological correlations between social communicative skills and prerequisite non-social capacities of cognitive, motor and perceptual control
  • Computer-assisted, caregiver-delivered training of manual motor and oral motor skills prerequisite to communication in persons with autism who lack communicative speech
  • Development or translation, cultural adaptation, and validation of quantitative trait and diagnostic measures of autism and autistic traits in South Asia; global outreach to people on the autism spectrum, their families, teachers, therapists and other stakeholders

Using both cognitive neuroimaging (EEG/ERP and fMRI) and behavioural methods, Belmonte enunciated the now widely accepted and supported theory of dysconnectivity within and between autistic neural and cognitive networks, in which differences of local neural network entropy perturb activity-dependent development of long-range network connectivity, impairing top-down integrative control and enhancing autonomous processing.  A current NIHR-funded application of this work (http://PointOutWords.online/) assays the effect of computer-assisted motor skills training on communicative ability in oral motor-impaired persons with autism who lack communicative speech.  A related interest is the interaction of individual differences in autistic traits, cognitive sex differences, individualistic-collectivistic cultural differences, and situational manipulations of psychological distance and level of construal, all of which seem to project onto one major axis of human cognitive variation, and which may map onto common neurophysiological traits relating to cognitive control and functional brain connectivity.

External activity

Dr Belmonte served on the Scientific Review Council of Cure Autism Now (2000 - 2006), was a founding member of the editorial boards of Autism Research (the journal of the International Society for Autism Research, 2007 - 2015) and of Frontiers in Evolutionary Psychology and Neuroscience (2009-2017), and since 2009 has served on the editorial board of Molecular Autism.  He has been an ad hoc reviewer for 47 other journals, as well as for the UK Medical Research Council, UK Economic and Social Research Council, US National Institutes of Health, US National Science Foundation, US Army Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs, Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, Hungarian Scientific Research Fund, Autism Speaks, and several other foundations and institutions.

Sponsors and collaborators

Dr Belmonte's work has been funded to a total of more than £910,000 by governmental and private sponsors including the US National Science Foundation, the UK National Institute for Health Research, the UK Medical Research Council, the US-India Educational Foundation, Autism Speaks, Cure Autism Now, Fundacão BIAL, and Santander.  He has collaborations in India, the United Kingdom and the United States:

  • The Com DEALL Trust (Bangalore)
  • National Brain Research Centre (Manesar, India)
  • Calcutta Medical College
  • NHS Peterborough Neurodevelopmental Service
  • Research on Autism and Development Laboratory, School of Medicine, University of California, San Diego
  • EEG and Psychophysiology Laboratory, Department of Human Development, Cornell University