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Front Integr Neurosci. 2010 Mar 29;4:8. doi: 10.3389/fnint.2010.00008. eCollection 2010.

Sensory Over-Responsivity and ADHD: Differentiating Using Electrodermal Responses, Cortisol, and Anxiety.

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Department of Occupational Therapy, School of Allied Health Professions, Virginia Commonwealth University Richmond, VA, USA.


Deficits in sensory modulation have been linked clinically with impaired attention, arousal, and impulsivity for years, but a clear understanding of the relationship between sensory modulation disorders and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has proven elusive. Our preliminary work suggested that patterns of salivary cortisol and electrodermal responsivity to sensation may be linked to different groups of children with ADHD; those with and without sensory over-responsivity (SOR). Additionally, SOR has been linked to anxiety, and anxiety has been linked to ADHD. A clearer understanding of the relationship between anxiety, SOR, and ADHD may support a better understanding of ADHD diagnostic subtypes. We examined neuroendocrine, electrodermal and behavioral characteristics and sought to predict group membership among 6- to 12-year-old children with ADHD and SOR (ADHDs), ADHD and no SOR (ADHDt), and typicals (TYP). Behavioral questionnaires were completed to document SOR and anxiety. Lab testing used a Sensory Challenge Protocol (SCP) with concurrent electrodermal measurement and the collection of cortisol prior to and following the SCP. Results substantiated links between SOR and anxiety, in both TYP and ADHD children. Results suggests that ADHD should be considered in conjunction with anxiety and sensory responsivity; both may be related to bottom-up processing differences, and deficits in prefrontal cortex/hippocampal synaptic gating.


ADHD; EDR; anxiety; cortisol; sensory over-responsivity

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