Jonathan Delafield-Butt

Prof, Professor

  • United Kingdom

Accepting PhD Students

Personal profile

Personal Statement

Jonathan Delafield-Butt is Professor of Child Neurodevelopment and Autism, and Director of the cross-disciplinary Laboratory for Innovation in Autism at the University of Strathclyde.  His work examines the origins of conscious experience and the embodied and emotional foundations of psychological development, with attention to the subtle but significant motor disruption evident in autism spectrum disorder.  He took his Ph.D. in Developmental Neurobiology at the University of Edinburgh Medical School before extending to Developmental Psychology with application of intersubjectivity theory in postdoctoral work at the Universities of Edinburgh and Copenhagen.  He held scholarships at Harvard University and the Institute for Advanced Studies at the University of Edinburgh for science-philosophy bridgework.  Delafield-Butt trained pre-clinically in Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy at the Scottish Institute for Human Relations.  He is a member of the World Association for Infant Mental Health, the International Society for Autism Research, and is an affiliate member of the Gillberg Neuropsychiatry Centre at the University of Gothenburg. His lab advances an ecological, embodied understanding of the mind and works to develop bespoke wearable and smart device serious games to characterise the motor disruption in autism spectrum disorder, and its social and psychological consequences.

Research Interests

I am interested in the development of children's agency and its origins evident in intentional movements from before birth.  I am interested in how these movements develop and how children engage with feeling and emotion in embodied projects with other persons to co-create and to share meaning.  I am interested fundamentally in the origins of this creative agency in evolution and in biology, and how it can be different in cases of developmental disorders such as autism, or in cases of familial stress.  I am interested in the neurobiological origins of these organismic capacities, and the kinds of whole systems properties required to generate them.  In sum, I am interested in the raw nature of what it means to be alive as a generative, active being, and the importance in human society of our structured and social worlds in shaping that experience.

This scholarship has extended in recent years into useful innovation in identification of an autism-specific motor signature that appears to be invariant across development.  This signature can be captured in children’s iPad gameplay and with machine learning and artificial intelligence analytics used to identify children likely to be autistic.  This technology has together with the underpinning scholarly rationale that intentional movement is a fundamental property of conscious living organisms formed the basis of the award-winning, cross-disciplinary Laboratory for Innovation in Autism.  This lab works with educators, psychologists, psychiatrists and engineers to better understand autism through innovation of new motor theory, technology to identify autism, and in practice through therapy and inclusive pedagogy.   

I am founder and director of the Laboratory for Innovation in Autism together with Professors Phil Rowe (BME), Ivan Andonovic (EEE) and Christos Tachtatzis (EEE).  Please see the Laboratory web pages for more details.

Research Projects:

  • Philosophy of Mind
    • Organisms and Their Choices discussion group funded by RSE, with Edinburgh, Oxford, Tartu, and others.
    • Normativity in the Origin of Mind, funded by the Spanish Government, with Navarra and membership from Berkeley, Edinburgh, Connecticut, and others.
  • The Autism Motor Signature
    • Machine learning iPad Identification of Autism, Phase 3 diagnostic trial, with Glasgow, Gothenburg, Aberdeen, and Warsaw
    • Prospective motor control and kinematic analyses
    • Network analyses
  • Neuroimaging Brainstem in Autism
    • 7T MRI to identify individual nuclei size, shape, and connectivity, with Glasgow and the NHS-Glasgow University Imaging Centre of Excellence
    • 3T MRI comparing ASD and DCD brainstem volume and shape, with USC and Pisa.
  • Inclusive Education
    • Improving lived experience for autistic children in schools.
    • Inclusion of physical activity and active play for autistic children.
    • Comparative analysis of inclusive practice in Scottish schools, and in Catalan.


Ph.D. Students – if you are a talented scholar or researchers inspired in any of the above areas, I will be happy to supervise your doctoral research.

Postdoctoral Fellowships/Posts – if you are a talented scholar or researcher inspired in any of the above areas, I will be happy to work with you to support you to find the best funding possible, usually through Fellowship or Research Grant application. 

Jobs Available – When we have funded PhD or postdoc positions available, these will be advertised on X and the University jobs pages.    


Teaching Interests

My teaching covers early psychological development from foetal life through to early childhood, with emphasis on the importance of social and emotional experience for health and learning.  I teach on the following courses:

M.Sc. in Early Years Pedagogy -- The Connected Child (module lead).

B.A. Childhood Practice -- Emotional and Social Development (module lead, one of two phase two modules).

B.A. Primary Education/Psychology/HaSS -- Learners and Learning.


Academic / Professional qualifications

Pre-clinical Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, Scottish Institute for Human Relations (2009)

Ph.D. in Developmental Neurobiology, University of Edinburgh (2003)

M.Sc. in Neuroscience, University of Edinburgh (1998)

B.Sc. (Hons) Medicinal Chemistry, University of Leeds (1996)

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 4 - Quality Education


  • perception and action
  • development
  • affects and emotions
  • intersubjectivity
  • therapy
  • infant mental health
  • Motor control
  • intentionality
  • behaviour
  • neurobiology
  • early years
  • pre-verbal
  • community
  • cooperativity
  • meaning-making
  • autism
  • consciousness
  • embodiment


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