Over-Responsiveness and Greater Variability in Roughness Perception in Autism

Sarah M. Haigh, Nancy Minshew, David J. Heeger, Ilan Dinstein, Marlene Behrmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although sensory problems, including tactile hypersensitivity and hyposensitivity (DSM-5) are commonly associated with autism, there is a dearth of systematic and rigorous research in this domain. Here, we report findings from a psychophysical experiment that explored differences in tactile perception between individuals with autism and typically developing control participants, who, using their index finger, rated a series of surfaces on the extent of their roughness. Each surface was rated multiple times and we calculated both the average rating and the variability across trials. Relative to controls, the individuals with autism perceived the surfaces as rougher overall and exhibited greater variability in their ratings across trials. These findings characterize altered tactile perception in autism and suggest that sensory problems in autism may be the product of overly responsive and variable sensory processing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)393-402
Number of pages10
JournalAutism Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016


  • Autism
  • Sensory hypersensitivity
  • Tactile
  • Variability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Genetics(clinical)


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