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Multisensory Integration and the Society for Neuroscience: Then and Now

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Abstract “The operation of our multiple and distinct sensory systems has long captured the interest of researchers from multiple disciplines. When the Society was founded 50 years ago to bring neuroscience research under a common banner, sensory research was largely divided along modality specific lines. At the time, there were only a few physiological and anatomical observations of the multisensory interactions that powerfully influence our everyday perception. Since then,the neuroscientific study of multisensory integration has increased exponentially in both volume and diversity. From initial studies identifying the overlapping receptive fields of multisensory neurons,to subsequent studies of the spatial and temporal principles that govern the integration of multiple sensory cues, our understanding of this phenomenon at the single-neuron level has expanded to include a variety of dimensions. We now can appreciate how multisensory integration can alter patterns of neural activity intime, and even coordinate activity among populations of neurons across different brain areas. There is now a growing battery of sophisticated empirical and computational techniques that are being used to study this process in a number of models. These advancements have not only enhanced our understanding of this remarkable process in the normal adult brain, but also its underlying circuitry, requirements for development, susceptibility to malfunction, and how its principles may be used to mitigate malfunction.”

Barry E. SteinTerrence R. Stanford and Benjamin A. Rowland

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The Importance of Sensory Processing in Mental Health: A Proposed Addition to the Research Domain Criteria…

Great to see another article published that focuses us on the importance of understanding more about the links between sensory integration to mental health and wellbeing.

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Great Learning Tool Online: Brain Facts

We love this for our therapists, students, parents and teachers! What a fantastic resource to be able to share. We love their ethos, to spread this knowledge abroad and to different audiences. It would be nice to think OT’s, PT’s and SLT’s doing Ayres’ Sensory Integration can contribute about how we assess and work with the vestibular and other sensory systems in therapy.

Brain Facts Website

Brain Facts YouTube Channel (great teaching and learning videos)

Here is their YouTube about the vestibular system.

Hear more about this global initiative to support learning about neuroscience.



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Research Update: Early Deprivation and Brain Development

A new article has been published which adds more to that we know about deprivation on development of the mind, body and brain.

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Millions of children worldwide live in nonfamilial institutions. We studied impact on adult brain structure of a particularly severe but time-limited form of institutional deprivation in early life experienced by children who were subsequently adopted into nurturing families. Institutional deprivation was associated with lower total brain volume in a dose-dependent way. Regionally specific effects were seen in medial prefrontal, inferior frontal, and inferior temporal areas. Deprivation-related alterations in total brain volume were associated with lower intelligence quotient and more attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptoms; alterations in temporal volume seemed compensatory, as they were associated with fewer attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptoms. We provide evidence that early childhood deprivation is related to alterations in adult brain structure, despite environmental enrichment in intervening years.

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Download a copy [open access] Early childhood deprivation is associated with alterations in adult brain structure despite subsequent environmental enrichment

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Enriched Environments as a Potential Treatment for Developmental Disorders: A Critical Assessment

The beneficial effects of enriched environments have been established through a long history of research. Enrichment of the living conditions of captive animals in the form of larger cages, sensory stimulating objects, and opportunities for social interaction and physical exercise, has been shown to reduce emotional reactivity, ameliorate abnormal behaviors, and enhance cognitive functioning. Recently, environmental enrichment research has been extended to humans, in part due to growing interest in its potential therapeutic benefits for children with neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs). This paper reviews the history of enriched environment research and the use of enriched environments as a developmental intervention in studies of both NDD animal models and children. We argue that while environmental enrichment may sometimes benefit children with NDDs, several methodological factors need to be more closely considered before the efficacy of this approach can be adequately evaluated, including: (i) operationally defining and standardizing enriched environment treatments across studies; (ii) use of control groups and better control over potentially confounding variables; and (iii) a comprehensive theoretical framework capable of predicting when and how environmental enrichment will alter the trajectory of NDDs.

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Early Adverse Experiences and the Developing Brain

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Sensory Overload, Poor Habituation and A Brain that is Constantly Surprised

This article by science mag uses the analogy of predictive coding to explore how a mismatch between what the brain predicts might happen with what actually happens can cause the brain to be in a constant state of surprise. It attempts to explain some of the core features of Autism, Sensory Integration differences, poor habituation, focus on detail rather than the big picture and difficulties with social interaction…

“In Ayaya’s telling, her autism involves a host of perceptual disconnects. For example, she feels in exquisite detail all the sensations that typical people readily identify as hunger, but she can’t piece them together. “It’s very hard for me to conclude I’m hungry,” she says. “I feel irritated, or I feel sad, or I feel something [is] wrong. This information is separated, not connected.” It takes her so long to realize she is hungry that she often feels faint and gets something to eat only after someone suggests it to her.”  Read more here…