Mission & Background

Mission

The mission of the Sensory Inputs Lab (InPuts lab for short) is to investigate how our brain processes sensory information, how cortical processes relate to our behavioral perception of sensations, and how this leads to our externalized behaviors in health and disease. We have a specific focus on neurodevelopmental disorders. The ultimate aim of this work is to identify specific sensory abnormalities that may lead to better stratification of neurodevelopmental disorders and subsequent biomarker development.


Background

Individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders (e.g. Autism) often have sensory abnormalities (e.g. 70-90% in Autism). We know that touch and audition play an extremely important role in early development and are a driving force behind the formation of social and communicative skills. However, the underlying physiology of touch perception in Autism and other disorders is not well known. Furthermore, we don’t know how alterations in touch processing link to clinical manifestations of these disorders. Prior work has studied sensory processing as a whole whereas our focus lies on very specific aspects of touch perception (e.g. detection, or discrimination). Our recent findings suggest that Autism and ADHD show specific tactile abnormalities that are uniquely linked to their clinical signature. By understanding how alterations in touch perception occur, and how they relate to clinical features of neurodevelopment, we may be able to develop biomarkers for early diagnosis, or for stratifyig treatment response, with potential effects on core symptoms of the disorders. We are also interested in examining these relationships in a healthy population.

Historically, the lab has been a single-domain (touch) multimodal lab that focuses on human behavior, with an emphasis on Autism Spectrum Disorder. We have used a combination of a) Behavioral Psychophysics and other cognitive tasks to objectively assess low-level perception b) MRI approaches (Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy in particular), c) Clinical qualitative approaches and most recently d) Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation. The aim is to link neurophysiological mechanisms pertaining to GABAergic inhibition to behavioral perception of touch.

More recently, our lab has expanded our focus, including auditory processing measures and cognitive measures of how we experience social sensory events (SSE’s). We are also exploring using EEG and examining genetic and environmental risk factors.

As a group, we strongly believe in creating an inclusive and welcome environment for everyone. We have a strong belief in open and transparent science.