Autistic Youth’s Brains React Differently to Stimuli

autism sensory stimuli

Recently, a study that was published in JAMA Psychiatry has found that children on the spectrum who are overly sensitive to stimuli show differences in brain reactions.

These findings could enable researchers to posit new types of interventions which would help more than 50% of the autistic population.

Shulamite A Green, a postdoctoral fellow at UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, says that these findings could significantly improve the lives of autistic individuals as well as their families. She says that often times, parents don’t want to leave their homes because taking their child out is too difficult.

Green also says that this research will help to understand how to treat sensory over-responsitivity, or SOR. By looking at brain imaging research and magnetic resonance imaging, the team from UCLA may have found a compensatory mechanism in the brain that helps regulate responses for autistic individuals without SOR.

The study focused on adolescents between the ages of 9 and 17. They also looked at those with autism and those without. In the study, there were three types of sensory stimuli- hearing loud noises, being rubbed on the inner arm wit a scratchy wood fabric, and experiencing auditory and tactile stimuli simultaneously. 

Green says that for the individuals with ASD but not SOR, their brains may be compensating through connectivity between their prefrontal cortex and amygdala. Both of these regions in the brain are connected to attention, threat response, and emotional reactions. 

Although there is no definite treatment for SOR, the team feels confident in their work towards finding one. One treatment that could be effective is creating coping skills for dealing with external stimuli. 

The UCLA team is continuing their research. They have recently received a grant from the Simons Foundation, which will help them continue their work with Autism Spectrum Disorder and SOR.

Information from this article sourced from Autism Daily Newscast

Written By Sejal Sheth

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