A dynamic approach to sensory processing in autism


  • Dr Catherine Manning

    University of Oxford

Project summary

Autism affects social functioning and encompasses sensory symptoms such as aversion to sounds or fluorescent lights. It is not known why sensory symptoms occur. Previous research has overlooked the dynamic process leading to sensory responses, so we do not know the point at which differences arise. For example, whether a heightened sensory response in autism is due to taking in sensory information too quickly or if it is an aversive response triggered at a lower level of sensory stimulation.

I will investigate the nature and source of sensory symptoms in autism by studying which stages of sensory processing are different, how differences relate to brain activity and how sensory processing affects movements in people with autism. I will also investigate how processing differences relate to sensory symptoms and whether additional difficulties, such as motor problems or attention difficulties, affect sensory processing in people with autism.

I will measure electrical activity at the scalp while children with and without autism respond to sensory information. I will combine behavioural and brain activity measures using mathematical models. Parents will complete questionnaires about their child‘s sensory processing and other difficulties.
The findings from this study will help to design future interventions and support for people with autism who experience sensory symptoms.