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Atypical Physiological Response to Less Controllable Sensory Stimulation in Children with ASD

Abstract

Atypical sensory features are frequently observed in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as uncontrollable and less predictable sensory stimuli are thought to be stressful for them. To quantify distal indicators of cardiac vagus nerve activity, which is associated with top-down self-regulatory capacity, during sensory tasks as a stress state in children with ASD, we conducted an exploratory study to measure phasic high-frequency components of heart rate variability (phasic HF-HRV) during less controllable tactile/auditory sensory tasks in 37 children with ASD (aged 6–12 years) and 37 typically developing (TD) children. Only children with ASD showed increased HF-HRV values from the resting state to the task (i.e., phasic HF-HRV augmentation) during both less controllable tactile/auditory sensory tasks. In TD children, decreased phasic HF-HRV values were observed to cope with the task demand during the less-controllable-tactile task. These findings suggest that increased phasic HF-HRV values in response to less controllable sensory stimuli may reflect atypical physiological regulation during sensory stimulation in children with ASD.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank the participants and their parents for their contributions to this study. This work was supported by Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research (KAKEN; 15K01414) from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. The funding source had no role in the design of the study, the collection, analysis, or interpretation of data, or the writing of the manuscript.

Funding

Our work was founded by Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research (KAKEN; 15K01414) from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. The funding source had no role in the design of the study; the collection, analysis, or interpretation of data; or the writing of the manuscript. The authors have no relevant financial or non-financial interests to disclose.

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Matsushima, K., Matsubayashi, J., Toichi, M. et al. Atypical Physiological Response to Less Controllable Sensory Stimulation in Children with ASD. Res Child Adolesc Psychopathol (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10802-022-00927-z

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Keywords

  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Heart rate variability
  • Tactile stimulation
  • Auditory stimulation