Can studies of pain help to bridge the gap between sensory and social impairments in autism?

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In May of 2013, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) will release its 5th edition. In this edition, the DSM-IV-TR categories of autistic disorder, Asperger disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder (not otherwise specified) will be combined into a single ?autism spectrum disorder? (ASD) category. ASD will be diagnosed according to two symptom domains: ?social communication impairment? and ?restricted interests/repetitive behaviors.? The latter domain includes an additional feature that involves ?hyper- or hypo-reactivity to sensory input or unusual interest in sensory aspects of environment? (Huerta et al., 2012). The relationship between the symptom domains that comprise ASD is not well-understood, and it has been suggested that these domains are largely independent (Dworzynski et al., 2009). Unusual sensory processing in ASD may, however, be associated with a disruption in higher-level social processes (Leekam et al., 2007), and therefore the social and sensory features of ASD may be inherently linked. In this general commentary, we propose that pain, as both a sensory and social experience, provides a potential paradigm with which to explore the relationship between sensory abnormalities and social impairments in ASD.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1 - 2
Number of pages2
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Issue numberArt. ID: 103
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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