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Kids with Autism, Sensory Processing Disorders Show Brain Wiring Differences

Researchers at UC San Francisco have found that children with sensory processing disorders have decreased structural brain connections in specific sensory regions different than those in autism, further establishing SPD as a clinically important neurodevelopmental disorder.

The research, published in the journal PLOS ONE, is the first study to compare structural connectivity in the brains of children with an autism diagnosis versus those with an SPD diagnosis, and with a group of typically developing boys. This new research follows UCSF’s groundbreaking study published in 2013 that was the first to find that boys affected with SPD have quantifiable regional differences in brain structure when compared to typically developing boys. This work showed a biological basis for the disease but prompted the question of how these differences compared with other neurodevelopmental disorders.

“With more than 1 percent of children in the U.S. diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, and reports of 5 to 16 percent of children having sensory processing difficulties, it’s essential we define the neural underpinnings of these conditions, and identify the areas they overlap and where they are very distinct,” said senior author Pratik Mukherjee, MD, PhD, a professor of radiology and biomedical imaging and bioengineering at UCSF.

SPD Gains Recognition as Distinct Condition

SPD can be hard to pinpoint, as more than 90 percent of children with autism also are reported to have atypical sensory behaviors, and SPD has not been listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual used by psychiatrists and psychologists.

“One of the most striking new findings is that the children with SPD show even greater brain disconnection than the kids with a full autism diagnosis in some sensory-based tracts,” said Elysa Marco, MD, cognitive and behavioral child neurologist at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco and the study’s corresponding author. “However, the children with autism, but not those with SPD, showed impairment in brain connections essential to the processing of facial emotion and memory.”

Children with SPD struggle with how to process stimulation, which can cause a wide range of symptoms including hypersensitivity to sound, sight and touch, poor fine motor skills and easy distractibility. Some SPD children cannot tolerate the sound of a vacuum, while others can’t hold a pencil or struggle with emotional regulation. Furthermore, a sound that is an irritant one day can be tolerated the next. The disease can be baffling for parents and has been a source of much controversy for clinicians who debate whether it constitutes its own disorder, according to the researchers.

“These kids, however, often don’t get supportive services at school or in the community because SPD is not yet a recognized condition,” said Marco. “We are starting to catch up with what parents already knew; sensory challenges are real and can be measured both in the lab and the real world. Our next challenge is to find the reason why children have SPD and move these findings from the lab to the clinic.”

Examining White Matter Tracts in the Brain

In the study, researchers used an advanced form of MRI called diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), which measures the microscopic movement of water molecules within the brain in order to give information about the brain’s white matter tracts. The brain’s white matter forms the “wiring” that links different areas of the brain and is therefore essential for perceiving, thinking and action. DTI shows the direction of the white matter fibers and the integrity of the white matter, thereby mapping the structural connections between brain regions.

The study examined the structural connectivity of specific white matter tracts in16 boys with SPD and 15 boys with autism between the ages of 8 and 12 and compared them with 23 typically developing boys of the same age range.

The researchers found that both the SPD and autism groups showed decreased connectivity in multiple parieto-occipital tracts, the areas that handle basic sensory information in the back area of the brain. However, only the autism cohort showed impairment in the inferior fronto-occipital fasciculi (IFOF), inferior longitudinal fasciculi (ILF), fusiform-amygdala and the fusiform-hippocampus tracts – critical tracts for social-emotional processing.  

“One of the classic features of autism is decreased eye-to-eye gaze, and the decreased ability to read facial emotions,” said Marco. “The impairment in this specific brain connectivity, not only differentiates the autism group from the SPD group but reflects the difficulties patients with autism have in the real world.  In our work, the more these regions are disconnected, the more challenge they are having with social skills.”

Kids with isolated SPD showed less connectivity in the basic perception and integration tracts of the brain that serve as connections for the auditory, visual and somatosensory (tactile) systems involved in sensory processing.

“If we can start by measuring a child’s brain connectivity and seeing how it is playing out in a child’s functional ability, we can then use that measure as a metric for success in our interventions and see if the connectivities are changing based on our clinical interventions,” said Marco. “Larger studies to replicate this early work are clearly needed but we are encouraged that DTI can be a powerful clinical and research tool for understanding the basis for sensory neurodevelopmental differences.”



I’ve seen that there are literally so many different types of tea available, so I decided to put together an idea of the types of tea that are available to you and what the benefits are.

  • Green tea: Green tea is amazing, there are so many benefits, for example it can help to lower cancer risk, green tea is filled with beautiful antioxidants, it can help to lower blood pressure, can prevent and fight tooth decay, improve cholesterol levels, reduce the risk of things like Alzhiemers and Parkinsons. Green tea helps to speed up the metabolic rate as it has an antioxidant effect on the liver, but the other bonus is, it can help prevent bad breath as it has an antibacterial agent within the tea!
  • Black Tea: Black tea has been shown to have the highest caffeine content but it has shown that black tea can help protect lungs from damage if you’re a smoker, and may also reduce the risk of a stroke. Black tea can also help with your oral health, for example it can reduce plaque formation of cavities and tooth decay. Black tea can also help with stress (brilliant right?) studies have shown that the amino acid L-theanine can help you relax and concentrate better.
  • White tea: White tea is brilliant! It is filled with lots of antioxidants, it promotes the body to have healthy and radiant skin, but also it has been shown to help with heart protection, by thinning the blood, lowering cholesterol and protecting the entire circulatory system. Some researchers have even said if you drink 2 or more cups of tea a day you’re almost 50% less likely to die after suffering a heart attack.
  • Oolong Tea: Oolong tea has some similar health benefits to the other teas, for example reducing high blood pressure, strengthening teeth, but also boost metabolism and burn fat cells faster. 
  • Nettle tea: Nettle tea is one of the best remedies for things like anemia, high blood pressure, rheumatism, arthritis, coughs and colds, congestion, urinary tract infections, kidney and bladder problems.
  • Passionflower tea: Passionflower tea is really good if you have anxiety or you struggle with stress, but also there are other benefits such as improving blood circulation, treating physical aches and pains, and helping feeling nausea relief. 
  • Chamomile tea: Chamomile tea is really popular and can really help soothe stomach and relieves bloating and indigestion. Chamomile can also help to calm people’s minds and help relax you and deal better with stress. If you struggle to sleep at night, having a cup of chamomile tea helps to relax the mind and body and allow you to fall off to sleep naturally. 
  • Ginger tea: Ginger tea has a lot of benefits, it can help to combat nausea, but also if you suffer from motion sickness, having one cup of ginger tea can help prevent the nausea and vomiting associated with motion sickness. It can also improve the stomach performance for example preventing bloating after eating to much, and can also have a positive impact upon your appetite. Ginger tea has also been show to lower bad cholesterol and help detoxify the liver. 
  • Peppermint tea: Peppermint tea is a very soothing tea, it can help the body digest food better and reduce any digestive issues. It has also been shown that people who suffer with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and gallstones have been prescribed peppermint tea. If you suffer with heartburn, don’t drink peppermint tea, it can it worse in the long run. 
  • Lavender tea: Lavender tea can help to soothe the mind and body, and can get you naturally off to sleep, it can also help if you’re feeling down and depressed, as it has been shown to lift your spirits. Lavender tea helps soothe and treat colic, bowel infections and an upset stomach, it can also help you reduce coughs, bronchitis, asthma, cold and respiratory problems. 
  • Lemon balm tea: Lemon balm tea can help to calm nerves and anxiety. However cold lemon balm tea bags can also help to relieve cold sores (win win situation) lemon balm can also help to regulate the thyroid! If you mix lemon balm with peppermint, it can also help calm upset stomach and soothe the digestive system. 
  • Rosemary tea: Rosemary tea is such a beneficial tea, it can help to relax your muscles aid digestion, if you have gall bladder and liver problems and you drink rosemary tea regularly then it will help relieve the symptoms. 
  • Hibiscus flower tea: Hibiscus tea is shown to lower blood pressure, reduce high cholesterol and strengthen the immune system as hibiscus tea is rich in vitamin c. If you have hibiscus flower infusions it has been seen to reduce hypertension too!
  • Cardamom tea: Both dried white cardamom flowers and the aromatic seeds can be used to make this tea. There are lots of benefits fr example it can help to treat indigestion, to prevent stomach pain, and also help if you’re feeling nauseous. And ladies, if you experience a lot of mood swings when you’re on your period, it can really beneficial if you drink this tea! 
  • Milk thistle tea: Milk thistle tea does a really gentle cleanse on your liver, it can also help for your liver to function better, but also milk thistle can encourage the production of bile which helps our digestion! 
  • Rosehip tea: Rosehips are filled with vitamin c which is so important for a healthy immune system and for skin and tissue healthy.
  • Lemongrass tea: Lemongrass is often had after dinner as it is seen to aid digestion, and if you drink this after a meal it can help take away that feeling of being really full. Lemongrass also helps relaxation and promotes a restful nights sleep.
  • Echinacea tea: Echinacea tea is used a lot to prevent/cure the common cold and can also be seen to enhance the immune system, relieve pains and help to reduce inflammation.
  • Yerba mate tea: Yerba mate tea is made with the filled with antioxidants and vitamins, it enhances the ability to focus, enhanced clarity and focus. Yerba mate tea, also helps to make your body use carbohydrates more efficiently (yay) but also yerba mate helps to support cardiovascular health for example it will help fat and cholesterol move through your blood stream so they don’t accumulate on the artery walls. 
  • Ginseng tea: Ginseng tea is a recommended tea for ladies who suffer with menstrual cramps and can help to reduce the amount of pain a woman is in during her period. Ginseng can also help to lower the blood pressure and increase the energy levels of a person who drinks the tea. Ginseng tea can also help give a libido boost, a heightened sexual satisfaction, but also increase sperm count for a guy. 
  • Licorice root tea: Licorice root tea can help if you have constipation, it has anti inflammatory properties, and ease the pain of arthritis. Licorice root tea can also help to protect the stomach lining and neutralise the toxin in the liver and help with treating liver disorders. 
  • Valerian root tea: Valerian root tea is really helpful if you struggle with sleeping so drink this a few hours before you go to sleep in the evening and it will help you to naturally fall off to sleep. 
  • Safflower tea: Safflower tea is shown to help soothe your nerves and relax you but also helping to strengthen your immunity. Safflower tea is filled full of antioxidants, to help prevent heart disease, decrease inflammation in your arteries and lower bad cholesterol levels.

Put the kettle on and enjoy!

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TEA. (Amie, this is awesome!)


dont let tumblr make you think

  • school isnt important
  • its okay to be rude to your parents
  • its normal to hate everyone
  • self harm and suicide are romantic or great
  • being rude is cute
  • being a female who hits or yells at your boyfriend is woman empowerment
  • depression and other mental illnesses are beautiful
  • grades arent important
  • education isnt important
  • college isnt important
  • smoking is cool
  • drugs are cool

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