Sensory hypersensitivity predicts enhanced attention capture by faces in the early development of ASD.
Sensory sensitivity is prevalent among young children with ASD, but its relation to social communication impairment is unclear. Recently, increased sensory hypersensitivity has been linked to greater activity of the neural salience network (Green et al., 2016). Increased neural sensitivity to stimuli, especially social stimuli, could provide greater opportunity for social learning and improved outcomes. Consistent with this framework, in Experiment 1 we found that parent report of greater sensory hypersensitivity at 2 years in toddlers with ASD (N=27) was predictive of increased neural responsiveness to social stimuli (larger amplitude event-related potential/ERP responses to faces at P1, P400 and Nc) at 4 years, and this in turn was related to parent report of increased social approach at 4 years. In Experiment 2, parent report of increased perceptual sensitivity at 6 months in infants at low and high familial risk for ASD (N=35) predicted larger ERP P1 amplitude to faces at 18 months. Increased sensory hypersensitivity in early development thus predicted greater attention capture by faces in later development, and this related to more optimal social behavioral development. Sensory hypersensitivity may index a child's ability to benefit from supportive environments during development. Early sensory symptoms may not always be developmentally problematic for individuals with ASD.
Jones, EJH; Dawson, G; Webb, SJ
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