Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is an often misunderstood disorder of the brain. With this condition, individuals have trouble receiving and/or processing the information that comes to their brain through their senses. This can lead to a variety of symptoms and delayed development in children, as this neuro-processing disorder affects their ability to focus as well as to experience and learn.
SPD is often untreated and unrecognised, or confused with other disorders such as autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). While children with SPD may have autism and/or ADHD as well, many health professionals have suspected that it is a separate disorder, even though it does not have a separate diagnosis code or treatment guidelines in issues of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Due to the issues caused by the disorder and the lack of a clear diagnosis or treatment plan, many parents as well as health care professionals have been at a loss at how to diagnose or help children with this disorder. Often children with this disorder “fall through the cracks,” and suffer difficulties in school or other social settings due to this lack of understanding or treatment.
This may change after new research conducted by UC San Francisco in the United States, and published in NeuroImage:Clinical, an online journal. The research results have been widely reported in several blogs and publications, including the Sensory Spectrum Blog.
Basically the findings of this research seem to provide evidence that SPD is a separate and distinct condition from autism or ADHD with a biological basis stemming from anatomical irregularities in portions of the brain.
While more research is needed to further isolate the causes that lead to the development of this neurological disorder as well as to develop criteria for diagnosis and consistent standards for treatment, the study shows that in those that are afflicted, there are anatomical differences in the white matter areas of the brain. The white matter of the brain plays a critical role in learning, perception and thought.
Using a specialised form of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) known as Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI), the brains of children afflicted with this disorder had white matter that appeared to be affected on a microstructural and bundled fibre level, with the central involvement of these tissue types occurring in the rear area of the brain. This is the area where the connections for the visual, tactile and auditory systems for sensory processing are located, as well as the connections for the left and right hemispheres of the brain. This is in stark contrast to either autism or ADHD, which typically involve areas of the brain in the frontal area.
Hopefully this research will encourage scientists and other healthcare professionals to conduct more research into this little understood disorder so that both parents and children can receive quicker diagnosis and clear treatment plans for an improved outlook.
Tell us, do you think there needs to be additional research and funding for this condition?