Sensory processing in autism spectrum disorders and Fragile X syndrome—From the clinic to animal models

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Abstract

Brains are constantly flooded with sensory information that needs to be filtered at the pre-attentional level and integrated into endogenous activity in order to allow for detection of salient information and an appropriate behavioral response. People with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or Fragile X Syndrome (FXS) are often over- or under-reactive to stimulation, leading to a wide range of behavioral symptoms. This altered sensitivity may be caused by disrupted sensory processing, signal integration and/or gating, and is often being neglected. Here, we review translational experimental approaches that are used to investigate sensory processing in humans with ASD and FXS, and in relevant rodent models. This includes electroencephalographic measurement of event related potentials, neural oscillations and mismatch negativity, as well as habituation and pre-pulse inhibition of startle. We outline robust evidence of disrupted sensory processing in individuals with ASD and FXS, and in respective animal models, focusing on the auditory sensory domain. Animal models provide an excellent opportunity to examine common mechanisms of sensory pathophysiology in order to develop therapeutics.

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