Tactile perception in adults with autism: a multidimensional psychophysical study

J Autism Dev Disord. 2008 Jan;38(1):127-37. doi: 10.1007/s10803-007-0370-8. Epub 2007 Apr 6.


Although sensory problems, including unusual tactile sensitivity, are heavily associated with autism, there is a dearth of rigorous psychophysical research. We compared tactile sensation in adults with autism to controls on the palm and forearm, the latter innervated by low-threshold unmyelinated afferents subserving a social/affiliative submodality of somatosensation. At both sites, the groups displayed similar thresholds for detecting light touch and innocuous sensations of warmth and cool, and provided similar hedonic ratings of the pleasantness of textures. In contrast, increased sensitivity to vibration was seen in the autism group on the forearm, along with increased sensitivity to thermal pain at both sites. These findings suggest normal perception along with certain areas of enhanced perception in autism, consistent with previous studies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Adult
  • Autistic Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Autistic Disorder / physiopathology*
  • Differential Threshold / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyperesthesia / diagnosis
  • Hyperesthesia / epidemiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychophysics
  • Touch / physiology*
  • Vibration