Linking Neuroscience, Function, and Intervention: A Scoping Review of Sensory Processing and Mental Illness

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Abstract

PURPOSE. Sensory approaches to mental illness are increasingly prominent in occupational therapy. Despite indicators of efficacy, a paucity of literature supports these approaches. This article provides a scoping review of research on the relationship between sensory processing and mental illness.

METHOD. Using Arksey and O’Malley’s (2005) framework, we mapped this area of research and identified gaps in the knowledge base. We searched PubMed, CINAHL Plus, PsycINFO, OTseeker, and the Cochrane Library using the terms sensory and mental health.

RESULTS. We found a growing body of neuroscientific research, primarily using electroencephalography and functional MRI, that links atypical neurosensory activity to mental illness. The occupational therapy literature has primarily focused on the efficacy of sensory rooms in psychiatric inpatient settings.

CONCLUSION. Research on the efficacy of sensory approaches needs to be expanded, including on how atypical sensory processing in adults with mental illness affects meaningful occupational participation.

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