Examining Sensory Over-Responsivity in Autism

Why do people respond differently to their surroundings? Does your child dislike the feeling of wool fabric, but their sibling cannot help but constantly touch it? Have you attended a concert where you loved staring at flashing lights, but your friend averted their eyes? Our lab aims to understand why we all react to sensory stimuli so differently!

The Sensory Cognitive and Affective Neurodevelopment (SCAN) Lab, directed by Dr. Shulamite Green, is currently recruiting for two studies focused on examining sensory over-responsivity in autism.

Sensory Reactivity and Regulation Development Study:

We are seeking participants 8 to15 years old who are typically developing or on the autism spectrum. Data collected from this study will help us understand how sensory processing is similar and different in children and teenagers with and without autism, and allow us to investigate how sensory processing develops across childhood and adolescence. By identifying the neural mechanisms that relate to the development of sensory processing, we aim to inform the creation of more targeted and effective therapeutic interventions for sensory processing challenges.

During their visits at UCLA, participants will play interactive sensory games, complete questionnaires, and complete interactive activities in a brain MRI scanner! In addition to cash payment, each participant will receive an optional research report about their child’s sensory processing. Contact us today to learn more about how your child can help us learn more about sensory processing and brain development!

Effects of Propranolol on Sensory Over-responsivity:

The SCAN lab is recruiting for a new study to test out a potential treatment for sensory over-responsivity (SOR) in autism. There are very few research-based treatments for this challenging problem in autism that is known to cause a great deal of daily life impairment for autistic individuals and their families. This study is based on recent findings from the SCAN lab that autistic children with SOR show increased heart rate responses to aversive sensory stimuli (Jung et al., 2021, read more about it in Spectrum News here). The SCAN lab is testing out whether propranolol, a beta-blocker which reduces physiological arousal, can decrease heart rate and brain reactivity to aversive sensory stimulation. The study is currently recruiting children and adolescents on the autism spectrum, ages 8-17 years old. Participants will take part in three visits to the lab: a short initial check-up by a physician, and then two study visits where they will complete an MRI scan and play sensory games while collecting measurements of their heart rate response. At one of the visits, they will take a one time 20-mg dose of propranolol.

If you are interested in participating or learning more about either study, you can reach the SCAN lab at ucla.scan.lab@gmail.com or (323)391-8795. Alternatively, you may provide your contact information on our interest form located here.