Archives     Advertise     Editorial Calendar     Subscribe     Contact Us    


Researchers Explore Perceptions of Touch in People with Autism


 
Carissa Cascio, PhD

For many people, sensations such as a gentle caress or walking barefoot through the grass feel pleasant. For individuals with autism, the feeling of light pressure on the skin may be perceived as aversive or even cringe-worthy.

"Sensory differences in individuals with autism are something that clinicians and researchers have observed for a long time, but most of the research has focused on vision and hearing because of their roles in social communication, which is the core deficit in autism," said Carissa Cascio, PhD, associate professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

For several years, Cascio's research lab has shifted the focus of multisensory perception in individuals with autism to home in on how the sense of touch may be perceived differently. While autism is known for being heterogeneous with symptoms varying across patients, reports of stronger emotional reactions to light and deep pressure on the skin are common.

"We actually have two senses of touch that talk to each other but are set up physiologically to operate very independently of each other," said Cascio. "Discriminative touch, which is mediated by receptors that conduct signals quickly, is used to help us manipulate things with our hands. We use it to determine the weight of objects and how strong of a grip we need to pick something up."

By contrast, affective touch signals slowly and conveys information about pain and temperature. But recent evidence shows that the fibers activated through this type of touch may also relay emotionally meaningful touch, such as a soft stroke on the arm. When comparing brain responses to both types of touch in individuals with and without autism, the groups showed little variation in response to discriminative touch, but reactions to affective touch proved remarkably different.

"Our working hypothesis is that there's something different about how sensory processing is connecting with the emotional parts of the brain. We don't necessarily think it has to do with individuals with autism having differences in their fundamental experiences of touch, but somehow their brain is interpreting it differently in terms of how rewarding or aversive it is," said Cascio.

For example, an experiment conducted by Cascio's lab attached a heating pad to individuals with and without autism, applying an uncomfortably warm, yet safe, temperature to each participant's calf for 15 seconds. Both groups rated their pain with the same score -- a seven out of 10 -- but brain images showed that neural reactions to the pain lasted 30 seconds in the neurotypical participants and only 10 seconds in patients with autism, meaning their reactions to the pain disappeared even before the pad was removed.

"I'm hopeful that if there is something different in the way the brain is connecting sensory and emotional information in individuals with autism, we can use that to inform intervention approaches early in the individual's life," said Cascio.

Share:

 

Email Print

 

More Grand Rounds:

 

Envision Healthcare Continues Providing Quality Patient Care Through More Than 130,000 Virtual Health Visits

Read More

Change Healthcare Launches Suite of Solutions to Support and Accelerate the Adoption of Virtual Care

Read More

Wellview Growing to Meet Demand in Mental Health and Extending Hours of Access

Wellview Health is extending the company's hours of operations and hiring new Mental Health Specialists, in order to better support participants and their families during the coronavirus pandemic.

Read More

Sarah Cannon to Present Latest Cancer Research Insights at ASCO®20 Virtual Meeting

Sarah Cannon announced that it will present its latest cancer research insights at the American Society of Clinical Oncology's (ASCO®) Annual Meeting being held virtually May 29 - 31, 2020.

Read More

Cumberland Pharmaceuticals Reports First Quarter 2020 Financial Results & Company Update

Read More

Brad Paisley Surprises Over 600 Nurses to Culminate Vanderbilt University Medical Center 'Gratitunes'

Brad Paisley Surprises Over 600 Nurses to Culminate Vanderbilt University Medical Center 'Gratitunes'

Platform Receives Over 1,300 Dedicated Gratitunes and 5,400 Songs Added

Read More

ACS Nashville Announces "ResearcHERS" Campaign

Returning for its second year in Greater Nashville, "ResearcHERS: Women Fighting Cancer" unites 44 area women as ambassadors to help the American Cancer Society (ACS) raise funds to directly support women-led cancer research.

Read More

Williamson Medical Center Celebrates EMS Week, Announces Star of Life Award

In honor of the proclamation for EMS Week signed by Williamson County Mayor Rogers Anderson, and in acknowledgement of National EMS Week - both which are being celebrated this week - Williamson Medical Center (WMC) is recognizing the critical role Emergency Medical Service professionals play in the community.

Read More

New Williamson Medical Group Surgical Services Facility Open for Elective Surgeries

Read More

Sumner Regional Marks National Hospital Week, Honors Healthcare Heroes

Read More

AHIP Joins Psych Hub COVID-19 Mental Health Resource Hub Coalition

Mental health is an essential part of a person's overall health and well-being. Promoting good mental health is more important than ever as Americans continue to battle the COVID-19 crisis.

Read More

Nashville Vascular and Vein Institute earns three stars in  Vascular Quality Initiative Registry Participation Award Program

Nashville Vascular and Vein Institute earns three stars in Vascular Quality Initiative Registry Participation Award Program

The Society for Vascular Surgery's Vascular Quality Initiative (SVS VQI) has awarded Nashville Vascular and Vein Institute three stars for its active participation in the Registry Participation Program.

Read More

American Academy of Nursing Calls for Greater Immunization

World Health Organization Celebrates World Immunization Week

Read More

ProviderTrust Kicks Off Milestone Anniversary With Introduction Of New Solution for Health Plans

New Offering Demonstrates Company's Continued Rapid Growth; Expands Successful Portfolio of Products

Read More

Envision Healthcare Appoints James Rechtin President and CEO

Envision Healthcare Appoints James Rechtin President and CEO

The Board of Directors of Envision Healthcare - one of the nation's largest facility-based care provider groups and ambulatory surgery center operators - today announced the appointment of James "Jim" Rechtin as President and Chief Executive Officer.

Read More

Vanderbilt Health Joins Nashville Soccer Club As Exclusive Health Care Provider

Nashville Soccer Club and Vanderbilt Health announced today a strategic, multi-year relationship that includes Vanderbilt Health becoming an official sponsor of Nashville SC and the team's exclusive health care provider.

Read More

Sumner Station Emergency Department Recognized for Excellence with Cardiac Care Certification

Sumner Station Emergency Department Recognized for Excellence with Cardiac Care Certification

Sumner Station Emergency Department provides necessary care, resources to patients experiencing heart attack, urgent heart problem.

Read More

Unity Psychiatric Care Names Cook Division VP

Unity Psychiatric Care Names Cook Division VP

Unity Psychiatric Care, a division of Franklin, Tennessee-based American Health Partners, has named Philip Cook division vice president of hospital operations.

Read More

HealthStream Acquires NurseGrid, #1 Rated and Top Downloaded App for Nurses

HealthStream (Nasdaq: HSTM), a leading provider of workforce and provider solutions for the healthcare industry, today announced that it has acquired NurseGrid, a Portland, Oregon-based healthcare technology company.

Read More

Local Healthcare IT Company EvidenceCare Promotes Amy Deaton to Chief Operating Officer

Local Healthcare IT Company EvidenceCare Promotes Amy Deaton to Chief Operating Officer

Leading clinical decision support system EvidenceCare announced this week the promotion of healthcare information technology industry veteran Amy Deaton to chief operating officer.

Read More

 
 


Tags:
None
Powered by Bondware
News Publishing Software

The browser you are using is outdated!

You may not be getting all you can out of your browsing experience
and may be open to security risks!

Consider upgrading to the latest version of your browser or choose on below: