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Brain Cogn. 2006 Jun;61(1):5-13. Epub 2006 Feb 24.

Tactile sensitivity in Asperger syndrome.

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Department of Psychology, Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London, 17 Queen Square, London WC1N 3AR, UK.


People with autism and Asperger syndrome are anecdotally said to be hypersensitive to touch. In two experiments, we measured tactile thresholds and suprathreshold tactile sensitivity in a group of adults with Asperger syndrome. In the first experiment, tactile perceptual thresholds were measured. Two frequencies of vibrotactile stimulation were used: 30 and 200 Hz. The results demonstrated significantly lower tactile perceptual thresholds in the Asperger group at 200 Hz but not at 30 Hz, thus confirming tactile hypersensitivity but only for one class of stimulus. A second experiment investigated whether self-produced movement affected the perception of touch in a group of adults with Asperger syndrome. A suprathreshold tactile stimulus was produced either by the participant (self-produced condition) or by the experimenter (externally produced condition) and participants were asked to rate the perception of the tactile stimulation. The results demonstrated that, while both Asperger and control groups rated self-produced touch as less tickly than external touch, the Asperger group rated both types of tactile stimulus as significantly more tickly and intense than did the control group. This experiment confirms the finding of tactile hypersensitivity, but shows that the perceptual consequences of self-produced touch are attenuated in the normal way in people with Asperger syndrome. An abnormality in this process cannot therefore account for their tactile hypersensitivity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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