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      Towards objectively quantifying sensory hypersensitivity: a pilot study of the “Ariana effect”

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          Background. Normally one habituates rapidly to steady, faint sensations. People with sensory hypersensitivity (SH), by contrast, continue to attend to such stimuli and find them noxious. SH is common in Tourette syndrome (TS) and autism, and methods to quantify SH may lead to better understanding of these disorders. In an attempt to objectively quantify SH severity, the authors tested whether a choice reaction time (CRT) task was a sensitive enough measure to detect significant distraction from a steady tactile stimulus, and to detect significantly greater distraction in subjects with more severe SH.

          Methods. Nineteen ambulatory adult volunteers with varying scores on the Adult Sensory Questionnaire (ASQ), a clinical measure of SH, completed a CRT task in the alternating presence and absence of tactile stimulation.

          Results. Tactile stimulation interfered with attention (i.e., produced longer reaction times), and this effect was significantly greater in participants with more SH (higher ASQ scores). Accuracy on the CRT was high in blocks with and without stimulation. Habituation within stimulation blocks was not detected.

          Conclusion. This approach can detect distraction from a cognitive task by a steady, faint tactile stimulus that does not degrade response accuracy. The method was also sensitive to the hypothesized enhancement of this effect by SH. These results support the potential utility of this approach to quantifying SH, and suggest possible refinements for future studies.

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          Most cited references 12

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          �ber den anschaulichen Inhalt der quantentheoretischen Kinematik und Mechanik

           W. Heisenberg (1927)
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            Sensory modulation dysfunction in children with attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder.

            This study investigates the presence of sensory modulation dysfunction (SMD) among children with attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Twenty-six children with ADHD (mean age 8.3 years, 18 males, 8 females), and 30 typically developing children (mean age 8.2 years, 21 males, 9 females) were tested using a laboratory procedure that gauges responses to repeated sensory stimulation by measuring electrodermal reactivity (EDR). Parental report measures of limitations in sensory, emotional, and attentional dimensions were administered using the Short Sensory Profile, the Leiter International Performance Scale-Revised, Parent Rating subscales, and the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL). Compared to the typical sample, the children with ADHD displayed greater abnormalities in sensory modulation on both physiological and parent-report measures. The children with ADHD also displayed more variability in responses. Within the group with ADHD, levels of SMD were highly correlated with measures of psychopathology on the CBCL. Implications of findings relate to the importance of considering sensory processing abilities in a subgroup of children with ADHD.
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              Tourette syndrome: the self under siege.

              Tourette syndrome is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by motor and vocal tics--rapid, repetitive, stereotyped movements or vocalizations. Tourette syndrome typically has a prepubertal onset, and boys are more commonly affected than girls. Symptoms usually begin with transient bouts of simple motor tics. By age 10 years, most children are aware of nearly irresistible somatosensory urges that precede the tics. These urges likely reflect a defect in sensorimotor gating because they intrude into the child's conscious awareness and become a source of distraction and distress. A momentary sense of relief typically follows the completion of a tic. Over the course of hours, tics occur in bouts, with a regular intertic interval. Tics increase during periods of emotional excitement and fatigue. Tics can become "complex" in nature and appear to be purposeful. Tics can be willfully suppressed for brief intervals and can be evoked by the mere mention of them. Tics typically diminish during periods of goal-directed behavior, especially those that involve both heightened attention and fine motor or vocal control, as occur in musical and athletic performances. Over the course of months, tics wax and wane. New tics appear, often in response to new sources of somatosensory irritation, such as the appearance of a persistent vocal tic (a cough) following a cold. Over the course of years, tic severity typically peaks between 8 and 12 years of age. By the end of the second decade of life, many individuals are virtually tic free. Less than 20% of cases continue to experience clinically impairing tics as adults. Tics rarely occur in isolation, and other coexisting conditions--such as behavioral disinhibition, hypersensitivity to a broad range of sensory stimuli, problems with visual motor integration, procedural learning difficulties, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, anxiety, and emotional instability--are often a greater source of impairment than the tics themselves. Emerging behavioral treatments of Tourette syndrome are based in part on an understanding of the moment-to-moment experience of somatosensory urges and motor response. With identification of specific genes of major effect and advances in our understanding of the neural circuitry of sensorimotor gating, habit formation, and procedural memory--together with insights from postmortem brain studies, in vivo brain imaging, and electrophysiologic recordings--we might be on the threshold of a deeper understanding of the phenomenology and natural history of Tourette syndrome.

                Author and article information

                PeerJ Inc. (San Francisco, USA )
                1 August 2013
                : 1
                [1 ]Department of Psychiatry, Washington University School of Medicine , St. Louis, MO, USA
                [2 ]Departments of Psychiatry and Radiology, Washington University School of Medicine , St. Louis, MO, USA
                [3 ]Departments of Neurology and Radiology, Washington University School of Medicine , St. Louis, MO, USA
                [4 ]Departments of Psychiatry, Neurology, Radiology, and Anatomy & Neurobiology, Washington University School of Medicine , St. Louis, MO, USA
                © 2013 Black et al.

                This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

                Funded by: U.S. National Institutes of Health
                Award ID: K24 MH087913
                This study was funded in part by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (K24 MH087913). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
                Psychiatry and Psychology


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