This information is updated as scientists in the SPD Scientific Work Group inform the SPD Foundation about their new findings.
The SPD Scientific Work Group, initially founded in 2002, is a collaboration of researchers who have been conducting studies to further the understanding of SPD. Funded by the Wallace Research Foundation, these researchers have helped develop a blueprint for current and future research into SPD.
Information about the scientists is available by clicking on their name. Please visit the active member listing for biographical information and links to work group member's websites.
In a study of children born between July 1995 and September 1997 in the New Haven, CT area 16% of 7 to 11 year olds had symptoms of SPD-SOR (Ben-Sasson et al., 2009). That is the same as 1 in 6 children. An earlier study in younger children (Ahn et al., 2004) found a prevalence of 5%, which is 1 in 20 children.
Several groups (Ben- Sasson et al., 2009; Keuler et al., 2011; May-Benson et al., 2009; Schneider et al., 2007, 2008, 2009; Wickremasinghe et al. in press;) suggest the following are possible risk factors associated with SPD:
Schneider’s group (Schneider et al., 2007, 2008, 2009; Moore et al., 2008) working with non-human primates provided corroborating evidence. They found that SPD-SOR was associated with maternal stress during gestation, drug and/or alcohol use by mothers during pregnancy, and postnatal lead exposure. PET scans revealed up-regulation of D2-receptor binding that correlated with increased behavioral withdrawal responses to tactile stimuli, supporting the hypothesis that neurophysiologic factors contribute to the expression of SOR behavior.
Studies also suggest a possible genetic susceptibility for tactile and auditory SOR (Goldsmith et al., 2006).
SPD, like other DSM-IV recognized disorders such as ADHD and depression, can occur together with other mental disorders, but SPD quite often occurs alone, in the absence of other disorders.
Separate research groups, in different areas of the USA, have reported that many individuals with SPD-Sensory Over-Responsive (SOR) symptoms do not have other disorders:
Studies have shown that characteristics of SPD-SOR are stable and most often continue from 1 to 8 years of age in children who are not treated.
Individuals with SPD-Sensory Over-Responsivity (SOR) have been reported to be 4 times more likely to also have internalizing problems (e.g., anxiety) and 3 times more likely to have externalizing problems (e.g., aggression; Ben-Sasson et al., 2009).
Children with SPD-SOR have been reported to have impaired participation in daily life activities (e.g., lower levels of activities, reduced frequency of activities, less enjoyment of activities) with a direct relationship between severity of sensory symptoms and degree of activity impairment (Bar-Shalita et al., 2008).
Additionally, adults with SPD demonstrate social-emotional difficulties and impairments in quality of life (e.g., increased symptoms of anxiety, decreased sense of vitality, decreased social functioning, decreased general health, and increased bodily pain; Kinnealey et al., 2011).
Several studies have shown that children with SPD- Sensory Over-Responsivity (SOR) have different physiological (i.e., electrodermal) responses to sensory stimuli compared to typically developing control children (McIntosh et al., 1999; Miller et al., 2012; Schoen et al., 2009) as well as children with autism spectrum disorders (Schoen et al., 2009) and ADHD (Miller et al., 2001). In particular, children with SPD-SOR were reported to have an increased number of and larger electrodermal responses to sensory stimuli as well as slower rates of habituation compared to typically developing control children (McIntosh et al., 1999). Additionally, children with SPD-SOR had greater levels of baseline arousal and higher reactivity in response to sensory stimuli than children with autism spectrum disorders (Schoen et al., 2009).
Studies suggest that children with SPD-SOR have different neurophysiological (i.e., brain) responses to sensory stimuli than controls (Brett-Green et al., 2010; Davies & Gavin, 2007; Davies et al., 2009, 2010; Gavin et al., 2011).
Occupational therapy researchers and clinicians have developed effective behavioral treatments for SPD (Miller et al., 2007a, b, c). The most promising intervention that we know of is the STAR model. This model includes the following elements;
SPD symptoms have been shown to affect individual relationships as well as family engagement in personal and social routines. Differences between families with a child who has SPD and those who have typically developing children include the following for families with SPD:
Ahn, R., Miller, L. J., Milberger, S., &McIntosh, D. N. (2004). Prevalence of parents’ perceptions of sensory processing disorders among kindergarten children. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 58(3), 287-302.
Bar-Shalita, T., Vatine, J.J., & Parush, S. (2008). Sensory modulation disorder: a risk factor for participation in daily life activities. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology, 50, 932-937.
Ben-Sasson, A., Carter, A.S., & Briggs Gowan, M.J. (2009). Sensory over-responsivity in elementary school: prevalence and social-emotional correlates. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 37,705-716.
Ben-Sasson, A., Carter, A.S., & Briggs-Gowan, M.J. (2010). The development of sensory over-responsivity from infancy to elementary school. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 38(8), 1193-1202.
Ben-Sasson, A., Soto, T.W., Carter, A.S., & Briggs-Gowan, M.J. (in prep). Clusters of children with sensory over-responsivity and ADHD.
Carter, A.S., Ben-Sasson, A., & Briggs-Gowan, M.J. (2011). Sensory over-responsivity, psychopathology, and family impairment in school-aged children. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 50(12), 1210-1219.
Cohn, E., May-Benson, T.A., Teasdale, A. (2011). The relationship between behaviors associated with sensory processing and parental sense of competence. OTJR: Occupation, Participation and Health 31(4):172-181.
Davies, P.L., Chang, W-P., & Gavin, W.J. (2009). Maturation of Sensory Gating Performance in Children with and without Sensory Processing Disorders. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 72,187-197.
Davies P.L., Chang, W.P., & Gavin, W.J. (2010). Middle and late latency ERP components discriminate between adults, typical children, and children with sensory processing disorders. Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience, May 28; 4:16.
Davies, P.L. & Gavin, W.J. (2007). Validating the diagnosis of Sensory Processing Disorders using EEG technology. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 61(2), 176-189.
Gavin, W. J., Dotseth, A., Roush, K. K., Smith, C. A., Spain, H. D., & Davies, P. L. (2011). Electroencephalography in children with and without sensory processing disorders during auditory perception. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 65, 370–377
Goldsmith, H.H., Van Hulle, C.A., Arneson, C.L., Schreiber, J.E., & Gernsbacher, M.A. (2006). A population-based twin study of parentally reported tactile and auditory defensiveness in young children. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 34(3), 393-407.
Goldsmith, H. H., Lemery-Chalfant, K., Schmidt, N. L., Arnerson, C.L., & Schmidt, C. K. (2007). Longitudinal analyses of affect, temperament, and childhood psychopathology. Twin Research and Human Genetics, 10(1), 118–126.
Gouze KR, Hopkins J, Lebailly SA, Lavigne JV (2009). Re-examining the epidemiology of sensory regulation dysfunction andcomorbid psychopathology. J of Abnorm Child Psychol 37:1077-1087.
Heath CJ, & Picciotto MR (2009). Nicotine-induced plasticity during development: modulation of the cholinergic system and long-term consequences for circuits involved in attention and sensory processing. Neuropharmacology 56 Suppl 1:254-262.
Keuler, M.M., Schmidt, N.L., Van Hulle, C.A., Lemery-Chalfant, K., & Goldsmith, H.H. (2011). Sensory overresponsivity: prenatal risk factors and temperamental contributions. Journal of Development & Behavioral Pediatrics, 32(7), 533-541.
Kinnealey, M., Koenig, K.P., & Sinclair, S. (2011). Relationships between sensory modulation and social supports and health-related quality of life. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 65(3), 320-327.
Lane, S. J., Reynolds, S., & Dumenci, L. (2012). Sensory overresponsivity and anxiety in typically developing children and children with autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: Cause or coexistence? American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 66, 1–9. http://dx.doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2012.004523
Lane, S.J., Reynolds, S., & Thacker, L. (2010). Sensory over-responsivity and ADHD: differentiating using electrodermal responses, cortisol, and anxiety. Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience, 4(8),1-14. doi:10.3389/fnint.2010.00008
Larrauri JA & Levin ED (2010). PPI deficit induced by amphetamine is attenuated by the histamine H1 antagonist pyrilamine, but is exacerbated by the serotonin 5HT2 antagonist ketanserin. Psychopharmacology, 212:551-558.
Larrauri JA & Levin ED (2012). The α2-adrenergic antagonist idazoxan reverses prepulse inhibition deficits caused by amphetamine or dizocilpine in rats. Psychopharmacology,
Levin ED, Caldwell, DP, Perraut, C (2007). Clozapine treatment reverses dizocilpine-induced deficits of pre-pulse inhibition of tactile startle response. Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior, 86:597-605.
May-Benson, T.A., Koomar, J.A., & Teasdale, A. (2009). Incidence of pre-, peri, and post-natal birth and developmental problems of children with sensory processing disorder and children with autism spectrum disorder. Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience, 3, 31.
McIntosh DN, Miller LJ, Shyu V, Hagerman. (1999). Sensory-modulation disruption, electrodermal responses, and functional behaviors. Dev Med Child Neurol. 41:608-615.
Miller LJ, Anzalone ME, Lane, SJ, Cermak, SA, Osten, ET (2007a). Concept evolution in sensory integration: a proposed nosology for diagnosis. American Journal of Occupational Therapy 61(2):135-140.
Miller LJ, Coll, JR, Schoen, SA (2007b). A randomized controlled pilot study of the effectiveness of occupational therapy for children with sensory modulation disorder. American Journal of Occupational Therapy 61(2):228-238.
Miller LJ, Schoen SA, James K, Schaaf RC (2007c). Lessons learned: a pilot study on occupational therapy effectiveness for children with sensory modulation disorder. American Journal of Occupational Therapy 61(2):161-169.
Miller LJ, Nielsen DM, Schoen, SA (2012). Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and sensory modulation disorder: Acomparison of behavior and physiology. Research in Developmental Disabilities 33:804-818.
Miller, L.J., Reisman, J. E., McIntosh, D. N., & Simon, J. (2001). An ecological model of sensory modulation: Performance of children with fragile x syndrome, autistic disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and sensory modulation dysfunction. In S.S. Roley, E.I. Blanche, & R.C. Schaaf (Eds.), Understanding the nature of sensory integration in diverse populations (pp. 57-82). SanAntonio, TX: Therapy Skill Builders.
Moore, C.F., Gajewski, L.L., Laughlin, N.K., Luck, M.L., Larson, J.A., Schneider, M.L. (2008). Developmental lead exposure induces tactile defensiveness in rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta). Environmental Health Perspectives 116(10):1322-6.
Owen J., Marco E., (submitted). White matter microstructural abnormalities in sensory processing disorders. Annals of Neurology.
Reynolds, S., Bendixen, R.M., Lawrence, T., & Lane, S.J. (2011). A Pilot Study Examining Activity Participation, Sensory Responsiveness, and Competence in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 41, 1496-1506. DOI 10.1007/s10803-010-1173-x.
Reynolds, S. & Lane, S.J. (2007). Diagnostic validity of sensory over-responsivity: a review of the literature and case reports. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorder, 38(3), 516-529.
Reynolds, S., Lane, S. J., & Gennings, C. (online 2009). The Moderating Role of Sensory Over-responsivity in HPA Activity: A pilot study with children diagnosed with ADHD. Journal of Attention Disorders,13, 468-478. doi:10.1177/1087054708329906
Reynolds, S., Lane, S.J., & Thacker, L. (2011). Sensory processing, physiological stress, and sleep behaviors in children with and without autism spectrum disorder. OTJR: Occupation, Participation, and Health, 31(2), 246-257.
Reynolds, S., Shepherd, J., Lane, S.J. (2008). Sensory modulation disorders in a minority Head Start population: Preliminary prevalence and characterization. Journal of Occupational Therapy, Schools & Early Intervention, 1(3), 186-198
Schneider, M.L., Moore, C.F., Gajewski, L.L., Laughlin, N.K., Larson, J.A., Gay, C.L., Roberts, Converse, A.K., & DeJesus, O.T. (2007). Sensory processing disorders in a nonhuman primate model: evidence for occupational therapy practice. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 61, 247-253.
Schneider, M.L., Moore, C.F., Gajewski, L.L., Larson, J.A., Roberts, A.D., Converse, A.K., & DeJesus, O.T. (2008). Sensory processing disorder in a primate model: evidence from a longitudinal study of prenatal stress effects. Child Development, 79(1), 100-113.
Schneider, M.L., Moore, C.F., Larson, J.A., Barr, C.S., DeJesus, O.T., & Roberts, A.D. (2009). Timing of moderate level of prenatal alcohol exposure influences gene expression of sensory processing behavior in rhesus monkeys. Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience, 3, 30.
Schoen, S.A., Miller, L.J., Brett-Green, B.A., & Nielsen, D.M. (2009). Physiological and behavioral differences in sensory processing: a comparison of children with autism spectrum disorder and sensory modulation disorder. Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience, 3, 29.
Van Hulle, C.A., Schmidt, N.L., & Goldsmith, H.H. (2012). Is sensory over-responsivity distinguishable from childhood behavior problems? A phenotypic and genetic analysis. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 53(1), 64-72.
Wickremasinghe, A.C., Rogers, E.E., Johnson, B.C., Shen, A., Barkovich, A.J., Marco, E.J. (in press). Children born prematurely have atypical sensory profiles. Journal of Perinatology.