In the largest imaging study thus far of children with SPD, researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, found the wiring of sensory processing areas in the brains of children with SPD to be significantly different from that of typically developing children.
The researchers looked at the structure and integrity of the white matter tracts – or axons – that form connections between neurons and among different brain areas by using Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI), a form of MRI. Comparing the DTI results with objective sensory testing they found that abnormalities in the connections between the auditory, visual and somatosensory systems increase in lockstep with symptoms of SPD.
It remains to be seen if this will legitimize SPD according to the American Psychiatric Association and be included in the next version of the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), but it may help to refine treatment, and it certainly strengthens the perception of SPD as a brain-based disorder. It’s easier to explain (and understand) that your child is not over-reacting when there is solid evidence that they are processing and, therefore, experiencing sensory stimuli differently.
How iLs can help: In a pilot study conducted by the Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation, the iLs Total Focus Sensory Motor Program was shown to help modulate arousal levels. Subjects who were over-responsive in certain sensory domains became less aroused and those who were under-responsive showed an increase in physiological arousal. Read the study.