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Autism Res. 2016 Sep;9(9):920-5. doi: 10.1002/aur.1612. Epub 2016 Apr 19.

Toward an interdisciplinary approach to understanding sensory function in autism spectrum disorder.

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Department of Psychiatry, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, Tennessee.
Department of Hearing and Speech Sciences, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, Tennessee.
Department of Allied Health Sciences, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Departments of Psychology and Psychiatry, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee.


Heightened interest in sensory function in persons with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) presents an unprecedented opportunity for impactful, interdisciplinary work between neuroscientists and clinical practitioners for whom sensory processing is a focus. In spite of this promise, and a number of overlapping perspectives on sensory function in persons with ASD, neuroscientists and clinical practitioners are faced with significant practical barriers to transcending disciplinary silos. These barriers include divergent goals, values, and approaches that shape each discipline, as well as different lexical conventions. This commentary is itself an interdisciplinary effort to describe the shared perspectives, and to conceptualize a framework that may guide future investigation in this area. We summarize progress to date and issue a call for clinical practitioners and neuroscientists to expand cross-disciplinary dialogue and to capitalize on the complementary strengths of each field to unveil the links between neural and behavioral manifestations of sensory differences in persons with ASD. Joining forces to face these challenges in a truly interdisciplinary way will lead to more clinically informed neuroscientific investigation of sensory function, and better translation of those findings to clinical practice. Likewise, a more coordinated effort may shed light not only on how current approaches to treating sensory processing differences affect brain and behavioral responses to sensory stimuli in individuals with ASD, but also on whether such approaches translate to gains in broader characteristics associated with ASD. It is our hope that such interdisciplinary undertakings will ultimately converge to improve assessment and interventions for persons with ASD. Autism Res 2016, 9: 920-925.


autism; collaboration; multisensory; sensory integration; sensory processing

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