Atypical sensory functioning in autism spectrum conditions
There have been studies of hypersensitivity to sensory responses in different sensory modalities, particularly vision and touch. The ARC was among the first to show superior visual search ability in people with autism or Asperger Syndrome and among their first degree relatives. We are testing if such sensory hypersensitivity is found irrespective of modality, using established methods from psychophysics. These include the measurement of sensory thresholds for detection of a stimulus, sensory discrimination between two stimuli, acuity, and adaptation. We are also relating sensory hypersensitivity to brain activity, using fMRI, and to genetic variation, testing for association with SNPs in candidate genes. Finally, we are interested to understand the relationship between the 'low-level' atypical sensory functioning in autism and the 'higher-level' cognitive differences (e.g., in empathy or systemizing).