Sensory Processing Abnormalities in ADHD
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is the most common childhood neurodevelopmental disorder and is characterised by symptoms of inattention and/or hyperactivity and impulsivity. Preliminary studies in children and adults with ADHD report both hypo-responsiveness and hyper-responsiveness to sensory stimuli, as well as problems modulating sensory input. For example, they might report having a lower pain threshold or be more sensitive to certain sounds and smells. Difficulties with sensory processing, particularly sensory over-responsivity, can have a negative impact on an individual’s daily life (e.g. social or work settings). As a result, increasing our understanding of the relationship between ADHD and sensory processing is crucial in order to develop more effective treatments/interventions for the condition.
This project aims to investigate sensory processing in individuals with ADHD and ADHD-like traits by employing a combination of behavioural testing, eye tracking, and self-report measures. A series of studies have been conducted and identified an association between ADHD traits and a higher frequency of sensory difficulties in all sensory systems (e.g., visual, tactile, and auditory) (Panagiotidi et al., 2018) and evidence of abnormal multisensory integration in ADHD (Panagiotidi et al., 2017). The next stage of the project involves collecting behavioural and neurophysiological data (e.g. heart rate) and looking at the relationship between sensory processing, ADHD, and autism.
Our findings suggest a new area of study for ADHD research and shed light on the possible mechanisms involved in the disorder. In addition to this, the initial results of our project suggest that sensory difficulties could be an important part of the ADHD phenotype.
Team: Dr Maria Panagiotidi with Dr Tom Stafford and Dr Paul Overton (University of Sheffield)