Sensory Perception is the process of handling external signals, input to our senses. Relevant information is recorded while noise and irrelevant data are ignored.
This is a three stage process:
Sensory perception is the term used to describe all activities dealing with perceiving or ‘making sense’ of the sensory input (e.g. filtering, focusing, pattern recognition, etc.). Sensitivity is the ability to handle weak signals and to separate signals that are in close proximity to each other.
SensPD measures the basic processing step (Step 1.2 above). Basic processing is key to our ability to ‘make sense’ of sensory input. Most mammals do not have the human cognitive capabilities, but all of them have basic processing skills. SensPD measures the performance of basic processing. It is known that people with autism have signal processing issues. On the other hand, no difficulties have been found in people with autism at the sensory registration or cognitive steps.
Audio signals are registered in the brain moving through the eardrum, the tiny ossicles and the Cochlea (The Inner Ear). Inside the Cochlea the inner hair cells convert the mechanical audio signal to a neural/electric signal that is transmitted to the brain.
Inside the Cochlea there are outer hair cells which perform a very important part in handling the input signal. As opposed to the passive inner hair cells, the outer hair cells generate sounds both spontaneously and under the brainstem control that are called Oto-Acoustic Emissions (OAE). The mechanical vibration of the outer hair cells as governed by neural/electrical activity is called Electromotility. OAE can be recorded by placing a microphone in the ear canal, and is commonly used to diagnose inner ear problems. The brainstem controlled OAE is in essence the basic processing step. This mechanism is needed for processing complex signals such as speech.
By no means. In the natural world all input signals are accompanied with noise, and as a result, animals at all levels of evolution have learned to cope with it. In the case of mammals, controlled noise generated by the outer hair cells assists in input processing.
SensPD records the response to a calibrated complex signal (the stimulus) and compares it to a normal response. The result of this comparison is SensPD’s measurement. This measurement of the processing performance serves as a Bio-Marker.
Therefore, SensPD’s procedure can functionally augment existing instruments.
The active noise cancelling process involves creating sounds that we have no control over. We might consider using this technology in the future after we better understand how it works.
This possibility cannot be negated since, as of now, we do not have an objective way to diagnose autism. There are many researchers that believe that this is true in about a third of the cases.
What are the implications for SensPD diagnosis? Maybe we will diagnose only two thirds of the cases. A repeat of the diagnostic procedure may be needed at a later age.
SensPD’s technology measures the performance of the Basic Processing step. There may be other disabilities associated with sensory processing issues. Early diagnosis will also serve these populations.
12. Are there other methods to diagnose autism at an early age?
The common practice for autism diagnosis is the observation of behaviors according to a schedule established by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and listed in their Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). It is commonly accepted that the behaviors listed in the manual only manifest themselves around the age of two. This assumption has been challenged and here are some examples:
All of these techniques are examples of statistical findings. They do not offer a neurological model that can explain the mechanism behind the behavioral differences.
13. How can you present your finding to the parent of a newborn?
SensPD’s measurement at birth or shortly afterwards is part of a screening process that newborns undergo for various disabilities and syndromes.
The newborn child would then be considered as “at risk” and closely monitored, as with any suspicion of a syndrome or disability.
Early childhood intervention would be recommended. Parents would greatly appreciate the chance to “dodge a bullet” such as autism by undergoing monitoring and early childhood intervention, rather than missing a crucial time for diagnosis.