Disorder-specific alterations of tactile sensitivity in neurodevelopmental disorders

Commun Biol. 2021 Jan 22;4(1):97. doi: 10.1038/s42003-020-01592-y.


Alterations of tactile processing have long been identified in autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). However, the extent to which these alterations are disorder-specific, rather than disorder-general, and how they relate to the core symptoms of each disorder, remains unclear. We measured and compared tactile detection, discrimination, and order judgment thresholds between a large sample of children with ASD, ADHD, ASD + ADHD combined and typically developing controls. The pattern of results suggested that while difficulties with tactile detection and order judgement were more common in children with ADHD, difficulties with tactile discrimination were more common in children with ASD. Interestingly, in our subsequent correlation analyses between tactile perception and disorder-specific clinical symptoms, tactile detection and order judgment correlated exclusively with the core symptoms of ADHD, while tactile discrimination correlated exclusively with the symptoms of ASD. When taken together, these results suggest that disorder-specific alterations of lower-level sensory processes exist and are specifically related to higher-level clinical symptoms of each disorder.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / psychology*
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / psychology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Touch Perception*