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During our everyday lives, we are confronted with a vast amount of information from several sensory modalities. This multisensory information needs to be appropriately integrated for us to effectively engage with and learn from our world. Research carried out over the last half century has provided new insights into the way such multisensory processing improves human performance and perception; the neurophysiological foundations of multisensory function; the time course for its development; how multisensory abilities differ in clinical populations; and, most recently, the links between multisensory processing and cognitive abilities. This review summarizes the extant literature on multisensory function in typical and atypical circumstances, discusses the implications of the work carried out to date for theory and research, and points toward next steps for advancing the field.
Research shows that children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) differ in their behavioral patterns of responding to sensory stimuli (i.e., sensory responsiveness) and in various other aspects of sensory functioning relative to typical peers. This study explored relations between measures of sensory responsiveness and multisensory speech perception and integration in children with and without ASD. Participants were 8-17 year old children, 18 with ASD and 18 matched typically developing controls. Participants completed a psychophysical speech perception task, and parents reported on children's sensory responsiveness. Psychophysical measures (e.g., audiovisual accuracy, temporal binding window) were associated with patterns of sensory responsiveness (e.g., hyporesponsiveness, sensory seeking). Results indicate that differences in multisensory speech perception and integration covary with atypical patterns of sensory responsiveness.
The Short Sensory Profile (SSP) is one of the most commonly used measures of sensory features in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), but psychometric studies in this population are limited. Using confirmatory factor analysis, we evaluated the structural validity of the SSP subscales in ASD children. Confirmatory factor models exhibited poor fit, and a follow-up exploratory factor analysis suggested a 9-factor structure that only replicated three of the seven original subscales. Secondary analyses suggest that while reliable, the SSP total score is substantially biased by individual differences on dimensions other than the general factor. Overall, our findings discourage the use of the SSP total score and most subscale scores in children with ASD. Implications for future research are discussed.
Sensory processing differences, including responses to auditory, visual, and tactile stimuli, are ideal targets for early detection of neurodevelopmental risks, such as autism spectrum disorder. However, most existing studies focus on the audiovisual paradigm and ignore the sense of touch. In this paper, we present a multisensory delivery system that can deliver audio, visual, and tactile stimuli in a controlled manner and capture peripheral physiological, eye gaze, and electroencephalographic response data. The novelty of the system is the ability to provide affective touch. In particular, we have developed a tactile stimulation device that delivers tactile stimuli to infants with precisely controlled brush stroking speed and force on the skin. A usability study of 10 3-20 month-old infants was conducted to investigate the tolerability and feasibility of the system. Results have shown that the system is well tolerated by infants and all the data were collected robustly. This paper paves the way for future studies charting the sensory response trajectories in infancy.
It has been proposed that early differences in sensory responsiveness arise from atypical neural function and produce cascading effects on development across domains. This longitudinal study prospectively followed infants at heightened risk for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) based on their status as younger siblings of children diagnosed with ASD (Sibs-ASD) and infants at relatively lower risk for ASD (siblings of typically developing children; Sibs-TD) to examine the developmental sequelae and possible neurophysiological substrates of a specific sensory response pattern: unusually intense interest in nonsocial sensory stimuli or "sensory seeking." At 18 months, sensory seeking and social orienting were measured with the Sensory Processing Assessment, and a potential neural signature for sensory seeking (i.e., frontal alpha asymmetry) was measured via resting state electroencephalography. At 36 months, infants' social symptomatology was assessed in a comprehensive diagnostic evaluation. Sibs-ASD showed elevated sensory seeking relative to Sibs-TD, and increased sensory seeking was concurrently associated with reduced social orienting across groups and resting frontal asymmetry in Sibs-ASD. Sensory seeking also predicted later social symptomatology. Findings suggest that sensory seeking may produce cascading effects on social development in infants at risk for ASD and that atypical frontal asymmetry may underlie this atypical pattern of sensory responsiveness.
Copyright © 2017 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.. All rights reserved.
Pharmacological activation of the glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor (GLP-1R) in the ventromedial hypothalamus (VMH) reduces food intake. Here, we assessed whether suppression of food intake by GLP-1R agonists (GLP-1RA) in this region is dependent on AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) and mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR). We found that pharmacological inhibition of glycolysis, and thus activation of AMPK, in the VMH attenuates the anorectic effect of the GLP-1R agonist exendin-4 (Ex4), indicating that glucose metabolism and inhibition of AMPK are both required for this effect. Furthermore, we found that Ex4-mediated anorexia in the VMH involved mTOR but not acetyl-CoA carboxylase, two downstream targets of AMPK. We support this by showing that Ex4 activates mTOR signaling in the VMH and Chinese hamster ovary (CHO)-K1 cells. In contrast to the clear acute pharmacological impact of the these receptors on food intake, knockdown of the VMH conferred no changes in energy balance in either chow- or high-fat-diet-fed mice, and the acute anorectic and glucose tolerance effects of peripherally dosed GLP-1RA were preserved. These results show that the VMH GLP-1R regulates food intake by engaging key nutrient sensors but is dispensable for the effects of GLP-1RA on nutrient homeostasis.
Copyright © 2017 the American Physiological Society.
Altered patterns of sensory responsiveness are a frequently reported feature of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Younger siblings of individuals with ASD are at a greatly elevated risk of a future diagnosis of ASD, but little is known about the neural basis of sensory responsiveness patterns in this population. Younger siblings (n = 20) of children diagnosed with ASD participated in resting electroencephalography (EEG) at an age of 18 months. Data on toddlers' sensory responsiveness were obtained using the Sensory Experiences Questionnaire. Correlations were present between hyporesponsiveness and patterns of oscillatory power, functional connectivity, and signal complexity. Our findings suggest that neural signal features hold promise for facilitating early identification and targeted remediation in young children at risk for ASD.
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. © 2016 International Society for Autism Research, Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
© 2016 International Society for Autism Research, Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Perception and behavior are fundamentally shaped by the integration of different sensory modalities into unique multisensory representations, a process governed by spatio-temporal correspondence. Prior work has characterized temporal perception using the point in time at which subjects are most likely to judge multisensory stimuli to be simultaneous (PSS) and the temporal binding window (TBW) over which participants are likely to do so. Here we examine the relationship between the PSS and the TBW within and between individuals, and within and between three sensory combinations: audiovisual, audiotactile and visuotactile. We demonstrate that TBWs correlate within individuals and across multisensory pairings, but PSSs do not. Further, we reveal that while the audiotactile and audiovisual pairings show tightly related TBWs, they also exhibit a differential relationship with respect to true and perceived multisensory synchrony. Thus, audiotactile and audiovisual temporal processing share mechanistic features yet are respectively functionally linked to objective and subjective synchrony.
Lowe syndrome is a rare X-linked congenital disease that presents with congenital cataracts and glaucoma, as well as renal and cerebral dysfunction. OCRL, an inositol polyphosphate 5-phosphatase, is mutated in Lowe syndrome. We previously showed that OCRL is involved in vesicular trafficking to the primary cilium. Primary cilia are sensory organelles on the surface of eukaryotic cells that mediate mechanotransduction in the kidney, brain, and bone. However, their potential role in the trabecular meshwork (TM) in the eye, which regulates intraocular pressure, is unknown. Here, we show that TM cells, which are defective in glaucoma, have primary cilia that are critical for response to pressure changes. Primary cilia in TM cells shorten in response to fluid flow and elevated hydrostatic pressure, and promote increased transcription of TNF-α, TGF-β, and GLI1 genes. Furthermore, OCRL is found to be required for primary cilia to respond to pressure stimulation. The interaction of OCRL with transient receptor potential vanilloid 4 (TRPV4), a ciliary mechanosensory channel, suggests that OCRL may act through regulation of this channel. A novel disease-causing OCRL allele prevents TRPV4-mediated calcium signaling. In addition, TRPV4 agonist GSK 1016790A treatment reduced intraocular pressure in mice; TRPV4 knockout animals exhibited elevated intraocular pressure and shortened cilia. Thus, mechanotransduction by primary cilia in TM cells is implicated in how the eye senses pressure changes and highlights OCRL and TRPV4 as attractive therapeutic targets for the treatment of glaucoma. Implications of OCRL and TRPV4 in primary cilia function may also shed light on mechanosensation in other organ systems.