Take part in our research

We are always looking for volunteers to take part in our research. We have listed our ongoing projects below. ​For more information or if you would like to take part, please email us.

Live projects

We are looking for typically developing children aged 7-12 and people of any age with Down syndrome to participate in studies exploring the strategies that children and adults use to extract social information from faces.

For more information and to take part, see our project page or contact Marie Smith (marie.smith@bbk.ac.uk) and Ines Mares (imares01@mail.bbk.ac.uk).

We are a group of researchers from the University of Surrey looking at the development of spatial ability in people with Down syndrome. We are also interested in understanding how spatial abilities and mathematics relate to each other. This project is funded by the Baily Thomas Charitable Fund.

Contact us: s.morris@surrey.ac.uk and k.gilligan@surrey.ac.uk



How do you know how to organise objects such as packing a bag or stacking a dishwasher? How do you know to put your clothes on the right way around and your shoes on the right feet? How do you find your way around a new school, and how do you know what to do when you get lost? These tasks rely on spatial abilities, skills core to everyday living. Despite their importance, spatial abilities in Down syndrome are poorly understood. This is particularly surprising given that, in typically developing populations, spatial thinking can be improved through training and has a known impact on wider activities, including mathematics.

Mathematics attainment in people with Down syndrome is generally poorer than in typically developing populations. Through gaining insight into spatial abilities and their role in mathematics in Down syndrome, this project is an essential first step towards identifying potential intervention opportunities. These interventions could help to improve mathematics achievement in people with Down syndrome.


Find out more

About our research

In this project, researchers are finding out about strengths and weaknesses in different spatial abilities in people with Down syndrome, and examining how spatial thinking relates to mathematics attainment.

What we are researching

Research has shown that people with Down syndrome have a relative strength in spatial abilities compared with their verbal abilities. However, no known studies with the Down syndrome population have examined spatial thinking across different sub-domains. For example, by comparing spatial thinking relating to the movement of a single object (like mental rotation) with spatial thinking relating to the spatial relations between multiple objects (like navigation).

Research has identified mathematics as an area of weakness for people with Down syndrome, which has important implications for independent living in this group, such as difficulties in using money and telling the time. There is a robust association between spatial abilities and mathematics in typically developing populations, and through training spatial thinking, improvements have also been measured in mathematics attainment. This project explores whether similar associations between spatial and mathematics skills are present in those with Down Syndrome. If so, it is possible that intervention programmes could be designed for people with Down syndrome to develop not only their spatial abilities but also improve their mathematics attainment.

Aims and objectives

The main aim of this study is to investigate the relationship between spatial abilities and mathematics in people with Down syndrome.

Our objectives are:

  1. To understand the relative strength and weaknesses in different types of spatial abilities in people with Down syndrome.
  2. To understand the development of different types of spatial abilities in people with Down syndrome compared with a typically developing population.
  3. To examine whether spatial abilities predict mathematics in Down syndrome, and whether this relation is similar to that seen in typically developing people.


Project team

Su Morris

Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of Surrey


Su is a researcher interested in cognitive development and how it relates to education, particularly the subjects of mathematics and science. Her research makes use of behavioural tasks, questionnaires, and eye-tracking technology.


Katie Gilligan-Lee

Project Lead, University of Surrey


Katie is a researcher in cognitive development with expertise in spatial and mathematical development in childhood. Her research also investigates cognitive training in the spatial domain, and how spatial training can be used to improve mathematics outcomes.


Emily Farran

Co-investigator, University of Surrey


Emily is a psychologist with expertise in children’s spatial abilities and how this relates to mathematics and science competence, and in understanding spatial learning difficulties in individuals with genetic disorders.


Information about taking part

We are in the exciting final stages of designing this study. When it is safe to do so, we will begin our data collection.


Can I take part?

We will be looking for people with Down syndrome between the ages of 10 and 35 years, as well as typically developing children in Years 1 to 6 at primary school (age 5 to 11 years), to take part. Please contact Su Morris for further information, if you would like to take part – s.morris@surrey.ac.uk


What will my son/daughter have to do?

Every participant will complete several different spatial tasks, several mathematics tasks, and tasks that measure general abilities. Some of the tasks are technology-based games using a laptop and others are completed verbally or on paper. Tasks will be completed individually and will take about two hours in total. There will be plenty of opportunities for breaks so your son/daughter won’t get too tired.

Contact us

Find us


School of Psychology
Elizabeth Fry Building (AD)
University of Surrey