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J Neurodev Disord. 2010 Sep;2(3):120-32. doi: 10.1007/s11689-010-9053-4. Epub 2010 Jun 12.

Using animal models of enriched environments to inform research on sensory integration intervention for the rehabilitation of neurodevelopmental disorders.

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  • 1Department of Occupational Therapy, School of Allied Health Professions, Virginia Commonwealth University, Box¬†980008, Richmond, VA, 23298, USA, reynoldsse3@vcu.edu.

Abstract

The field of behavioral neuroscience has been successful in using an animal model of enriched environments for over five decades to measure the rehabilitative and preventative effects of sensory, cognitive and motor stimulation in animal models. Several key principles of enriched environments match those used in sensory integration therapy, a treatment used for children with neurodevelopmental disorders. This paper reviews the paradigm of environmental enrichment, compares animal models of enriched environments to principles of sensory integration treatment, and discusses applications for the rehabilitation of neurodevelopmental disorders. Based on this review, the essential features in the enriched environment paradigm which should be included in sensory integration treatment are multiple sensory experiences, novelty in the environment, and active engagement in challenging cognitive, sensory, and motor tasks. Use of sensory integration treatment may be most applicable for children with anxiety, hypersensitivity, repetitive behaviors or heightened levels of stress. Additionally, individuals with deficits in social behavior, social participation, or impairments in learning and memory may show gains with this type of treatment.

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