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J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2013 Nov;52(11):1158-72. doi: 10.1016/j.jaac.2013.08.004. Epub 2013 Aug 24.

Overreactive brain responses to sensory stimuli in youth with autism spectrum disorders.

Author information

1
University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA). Electronic address: shulamite@ucla.edu.

Abstract

OBJECTIVES:

Sensory over-responsivity (SOR), defined as a negative response to or avoidance of sensory stimuli, is both highly prevalent and extremely impairing in youth with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), yet little is known about the neurological bases of SOR. This study aimed to examine the functional neural correlates of SOR by comparing brain responses to sensory stimuli in youth with and without ASD.

METHOD:

A total of 25 high-functioning youth with ASD and 25 age- and IQ-equivalent typically developing (TD) youth were presented with mildly aversive auditory and visual stimuli during a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scan. Parents provided ratings of children's SOR and anxiety symptom severity.

RESULTS:

Compared to TD participants, ASD participants displayed greater activation in primary sensory cortical areas as well as amygdala, hippocampus, and orbital-frontal cortex. In both groups, the level of activity in these areas was positively correlated with level of SOR severity as rated by parents, over and above behavioral ratings of anxiety.

CONCLUSIONS:

This study demonstrates that youth with ASD show neural hyper-responsivity to sensory stimuli, and that behavioral symptoms of SOR may be related to both heightened responsivity in primary sensory regions as well as areas related to emotion processing and regulation.

KEYWORDS:

amygdala; anxiety; autism spectrum disorders; functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI); sensory over-responsivity

PMID:
24157390
PMCID:
PMC3820504
DOI:
10.1016/j.jaac.2013.08.004
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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