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New Research Showing Biological Basis for SPD

photoWe receive a constant stream of information from our eyes, ears, skin, muscle/joints (position), inner ear (movement sense), nose, and the mouth.  With this information, we plan our actions to respond to the what, when, how, and why that occur in our day .  Some people have difficulty registering the information and some might have difficulty processing all the information.  It is estimated that between 5-16% of people have some type of sensory processing difficulty.  Sensory processing disorder is characterized by significant problems with organizing sensory input from the body and the environment which impacts quality of life as well as daily performance at home and in the community.

The information below has been reposted from the article in

Sensory processing disorders (SPD) are more prevalent in children than autism and as common as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, yet the condition receives far less attention partly because it’s never been recognized as a distinct disease.

In a groundbreaking new study from UC San Francisco, researchers have found that children affected with SPD have quantifiable differences in brain structure, for the first time showing a biological basis for the disease that sets it apart from other neurodevelopmental disorders. One of the reasons SPD has been overlooked until now is that it often occurs in children who also have ADHD or autism, and the disorders have not been listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual used by psychiatrists and psychologists.

“Until now, SPD hasn’t had a known biological underpinning,” said senior author Pratik Mukherjee, MD, PhD, a professor of radiology and biomedical imaging and bioengineering at UCSF. “Our findings point the way to establishing a biological basis for the disease that can be easily measured and used as a diagnostic tool,” Mukherjee said.

“Most people don’t know how to support these kids because they don’t fall into a traditional clinical group,” said Elysa Marco, MD, who led the study along with postdoctoral fellow Julia Owen, PhD. Marco is a cognitive and behavioral child neurologist at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital, ranked among the nation’s best and one of California’s top-ranked centers for neurology and other specialties, according to the 2013-2014 U.S. News & World Report Best Children’s Hospitals survey.

“We are just at the beginning, because people didn’t believe this existed,” said Marco. “This is absolutely the first structural imaging comparison of kids with research diagnosed sensory processing disorder and typically developing kids. It shows it is a brain-based disorder and gives us a way to evaluate them in clinic.”

The abnormal microstructure of sensory white matter tracts shown by DTI in kids with SPD likely alters the timing of sensory transmission so that processing of sensory stimuli and integrating information across multiple senses becomes difficult or impossible.

The research article is published in the open access online journal NeuroImage:Clinical.

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Elaine Tsang, MS, OTR/L