Sensory Stimuli and its Effect on People with Autism

hearingNew behavioral studies conducted by researchers based at the University of Toronto suggest that people with autism have a harder time correlating sight with sound, more specifically speech as opposed to sounds with in the environment.

This finding concludes that people with autism have a harder time assimilating information from other particular senses.  This would seem to be in line with the already known aspects of the language problems associated with the disorder.

An imaging technique called BOLD was used to measure the energy use in the brain showing just how much harder individuals with autism struggle to put speech together.

34 individuals were asked to watch brief videos while inside a resonance imaging scanner.  Of the 34, 16 were adults with autism.  One video shown was an individual telling a story.   The second video was similar however; the sounds of the storyteller’s words were deliberately out of synch with their mouth.

In a typical adult, the brain was shown to increase by about 18 percent when presented with the out of synch video.  In contrast, the individuals with autism produced only a 5 percent increase.

According to Ryan Stevenson, one of the postdoctoral researchers who presented the data, people with autism do not get the same boost in the brain as typical adults when confronted with processing the out of synch visual and audio.  For them, it is not much of a difference in processing the out of synch video from the former where the storyteller’s audio and visual were both aligned.

Additionally, all 34 subjects were also made to view a video of an individual making sounds only and verbalizing words at all.  Both groups, those with autism and those with out showed about a 7 percent increase in brain boost.  The outcome of which would suggest being in agreement with findings from the “intense world theory”.  Sensory stimuli and the processing of it can be overwhelming when you are working harder at both separately.

The conclusion of this research also would hint at ways to help individuals with autism work through more effectively processing what they see and hear.   Giving children with autism less sensory stimulus in the classroom for instance, may be more helpful to them and how they are processing their surroundings.

Further research is being done on perceptual training, which will hopefully give people more practice at correlating information from different senses.

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