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Thermal Perceptual Thresholds are typical in Autism Spectrum Disorder but Strongly Related to Intra-individual Response Variability

Williams, Z, Failla, M, Davis, S, Hefline, B, Okitondo, C, Moore, DJ and Cascio, C (2019) Thermal Perceptual Thresholds are typical in Autism Spectrum Disorder but Strongly Related to Intra-individual Response Variability. Scientific Reports, 9. ISSN 2045-2322

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Abstract

Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are often reported to exhibit an apparent indifference to pain or temperature. Leading models suggest that this behavior is the result of elevated perceptual thresholds for thermal stimuli, but data to support these assertions are inconclusive. An alternative proposal suggests that the sensory features of ASD arise from increased intra-individual perceptual variability. In this study, we measured method-of-limits warm and cool detection thresholds in 142 individuals (83 with ASD, 59 with typical development [TD], aged 7–54 years), testing relationships with diagnostic group, demographics, and clinical measures. We also investigated the relationship between detection thresholds and a novel measure of intra-individual (trial-to-trial) threshold variability, a putative index of “perceptual noise.” This investigation found no differences in thermal detection thresholds between individuals with ASD and typical controls, despite large differences between groups in sensory reactivity questionnaires and modest group differences in intra-individual variability. Lower performance IQ, male sex, and higher intra-individual variability in threshold estimates were the most significant predictors of elevated detection thresholds. Although no psychophysical measure was significantly correlated with questionnaire measures of sensory hyporeactivity, large intra-individual variability may partially explain the elevated psychophysical thresholds seen in a subset of the ASD population.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: 0601 Biochemistry and Cell Biology, 0299 Other Physical Sciences
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions: Psychology (new Sep 2019)
Publisher: Nature Publishing Group
Date Deposited: 06 Mar 2020 09:43
Last Modified: 06 Mar 2020 09:45
DOI or Identification number: 10.1038/s41598-019-49103-2
URI: http://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/12403

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