Sensory processing challenges are common and often difficult for children on the autism spectrum and can affect some neurotypical children. Furthermore, sensory processing atypicalities are associated with autistic traits and other co-occurring behaviors associated with autism, such as intolerance of uncertainty. As such, traits common to autism may vary continuously across diagnostic boundaries (i.e., Broad Autism Phenotype). Working to uncover behavioral and neurophysiologic correlates of sensory differences could positively impact clinical support of children with and without a diagnosis of autism. Therefore, this study examined relationships between sensory processing, intolerance of uncertainty (a possible measure of prediction), autistic traits, and associated resting state brain connectivity, in autistic (n=30) and neurotypical (NT; n=26) children ages 6-11. To this end, we calculated the relationships between behavioral scores on measures related to sensory processing, intolerance of uncertainty, and autistic traits. Also, we carried out independent component network functional connectivity analysis to investigate associations between cortical and cerebellar networks and behavioral results. Autistic participants presented with significant correlations of sensory processing with autistic traits and sensory processing with intolerance of uncertainty. Neurotypical participants presented with significant correlations of autistic traits with sensory processing and autistic traits with intolerance of uncertainty. Between groups correlations demonstrated sensory processing and intolerance of uncertainty scores overlapping and spanning the groups. Brain (rs-fMRI)--behavioral relationships regarding the above were also examined revealing strong associations between sensory and cerebellar networks and behavioral scores. Overall, our findings suggest that sensory differences may be related to altered prediction abilities and, in NT children, autistic traits. Neurophysiologic data pointed to abnormal functional connectivity between sensory cortices and the cerebellum in autistic children. These findings provide evidence for the notion of the BAP and suggest a role of prediction in sensory processing and its behavioral correlates.
College and Department
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Buckhannon, Maggie, "Autistic Traits, Sensory Processing, and Intolerance of Uncertainty: Neurobiological and Behavioral Correlates" (2021). Theses and Dissertations. 9087.
autism, resting state, sensory processing, intolerance of uncertainty