Autonomic Dysregulation During Sensory Stimulation in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Roseann C. Schaaf, Teal W. Benevides, Benjamin E. Leiby, Jocelyn A. Sendecki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Autonomic nervous system (ANS) activity during sensory stimulation was measured in 59 children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) ages 6–9 in comparison to 30 typically developing controls. Multivariate comparisons revealed significant differences between groups in the respiratory sinus arrhythmia (parasympathetic measure) vector of means across sensory stimuli (p = 0.02) and in change from domain to domain (p = 0.01). Sympathetic activity, measured by pre-ejection period, did not differ significantly between groups, although it was higher in ASD participants. Findings suggest that participants with ASD demonstrated a different pattern of parasympathetic activity during sensory stimulation. Findings are discussed in relation to the biological mechanisms of sensory processing in autism, insight into the autism phenotype, and the utility of ANS activity as an outcomes marker.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)461-472
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Autism and Developmental Disorders
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Autonomic nervous system
  • Parasympathetic nervous system
  • Sensation
  • Sympathetic nervous system

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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