|SPD Foundation Research
SPDF research staff
Dr. Miller has a program of research in Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). She developed a psychophysiological lab to collect electrodermal activity (with Dr. Sarah A. Schoen), vagal tone (with Dr. Schaaf), and EEG/Event Related Potentials (ERP) (with Dr. Darci Nielsen) and behavioral data on children with SPD, autistic spectrum disorders, Attention-Deficit Disorder (ADHD), and Prader-Willi Syndrome in response to sensory stimulation. She developed the Short Sensory Profile (with Dr. Willie Dunn and others) and is currently working on the Sensory Processing (SP) Scales (with Dr. Sarah A. Schoen) performance assessment and parent checklist to evaluate all subtypes of SPD.
In addition to spearheading the push for psychophysiological research on SPD, Dr. Miller focuses on treatment effectiveness studies for the remediation of SPD. She obtained a National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant to plan a multi-site treatment study and has engaged a team of leading occupational therapists to collaborate. In addition, she started the SPD Scientific Work Group in 2000 and is active in recruiting new members.
Dr. Miller compiled and submitted a summary of SPD research to the DSM-V committee for SPD to be considered for inclusion in the upcoming 2013 edition. The application is under active consideration by the committee.
Dr. Miller also has a 30+ year career developing norm-referenced, nationally standardized scales. Her tests include: the Miller Assessment for Preschoolers (MAP), the Japanese MAP, the First STEP, Primer Paso (First STEP in Spanish), the Toddler and Infant Motor Evaluation, the Leiter International Performance Scale - Revised, the Short Sensory Profile, the Miller Function and Participation Scale, and the Goal-Oriented Assessment of Lifeskills (in process).
Dr. Miller's peer-reviewed publications include the first reports of significant differences between SPD and typically developing children in the Sensory Challenge Protocol, a specialized laboratory paradigm she developed. She continues to spearhead an intensive program of research in SPD including studies related to SPD differential diagnostic specification, treatment effectiveness and neuropathology. Dr. Miller is convinced that effective SPD research must be multi-site and multi-disciplinary and to this end has started several SPD collaborative research groups.
Dr. Schoen participates in a program of research studying electrodermal activity and vagal tone in children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) compared to those with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Autistic Spectrum Disorder. She is also collaborating with Dr. Lucy Jane Miller on the development of the Sensory Processing (SP) Scales performance measure and parent checklist that evaluates all subtypes of SPD.
SPD Research Summary
Dr. Schoenís current research focus is on developing reliable and valid scales that can be used to diagnose each of the subtypes of SPD, starting with Sensory Modulation Disorder. Each scale has two components: 1) an Assessment that is an examiner-administered performance evaluation and 2) an Inventory that is a caregiver/self-rated symptom checklist. The purpose of the Sensory Processing Scales is to accurately diagnose SPD for clinical purposes and to identify homogeneous populations for research purposes. Existing measures are not based on the proposed taxonomy of SPD and therefore are inadequate for identifying the subtypes of Sensory Processing Disorder.
The measure of Sensory Over-Responsivity (SOR) is most fully developed and has been validated on a sample of 125 participants with and without SOR. Data has been collected on another cohort of 97 individuals with and without SOR. Preliminary findings from both samples support the internal reliability, discriminant validity, and test-retest reliability of the scales. A classification analysis of the sensitivity and specificity of the SPD SOR scales will be conducted to define "at risk" and "disordered" cut-points for SOR that can be used by members of the SPD Scientific Work Group to identify children for research.
A caregiver/self-rated symptom checklist exists for all of the other subtypes of SPD. The checklists are currently being piloted at sites across the country in order to determine which items best discriminate each subtype. Also in the process of development are items for an examiner-administered performance evaluation for Sensory Modulation Disorder: Sensory Under-Responsivity and Sensory Seeking. Test items will be administered to typically developing children as well as children with each disorder so as to determine which items best discriminate between groups.
Dr. Nielsen was trained in pharmacology and neuroscience with a specialization in behavior. She has conducted studies in a wide range of behavioral research areas, including: alcohol and nicotine addiction, the application and development of novel therapeutics for neuropsychiatric disorders, and behavioral and developmental psychobiology of anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, Lupus, and fragile X syndrome. Dr. Nielsenís research endeavors have all been focused on investigating the neurobehavioral underpinnings of and effect of treatments for central nervous system disorders.
SPD Research Summary
Dr. Nielsen is currently researching the neurophysiological and behavioral underpinnings of Sensory Processing Disorder, autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and Prader-Willi Syndrome.
Measures of electrodermal activity and electroencephalography/Event Related Potentials (EEG/ERP) in response to various types and combinations of sensory stimulation are being used to determine how the brain processes uni- and multi-sensory information. Studies are designed to 1) better understand the underlying neurobehavioral mechanisms of SPD and other disorders with sensory impairments, 2) identify a biomarker that could assist in the diagnosis of SPD, and 3) evaluate whether treatment of SPD changes central nervous system functioning.
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