The trait of sensory processing sensitivity and neural responses to changes in visual scenes.

Department of Psychology, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY 11794-2500, USA.
Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience (Impact Factor: 5.88). 03/2010; 6(1):38-47. DOI: 10.1093/scan/nsq001
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT This exploratory study examined the extent to which individual differences in sensory processing sensitivity (SPS), a temperament/personality trait characterized by social, emotional and physical sensitivity, are associated with neural response in visual areas in response to subtle changes in visual scenes. Sixteen participants completed the Highly Sensitive Person questionnaire, a standard measure of SPS. Subsequently, they were tested on a change detection task while undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). SPS was associated with significantly greater activation in brain areas involved in high-order visual processing (i.e. right claustrum, left occipitotemporal, bilateral temporal and medial and posterior parietal regions) as well as in the right cerebellum, when detecting minor (vs major) changes in stimuli. These findings remained strong and significant after controlling for neuroticism and introversion, traits that are often correlated with SPS. These results provide the first evidence of neural differences associated with SPS, the first direct support for the sensory aspect of this trait that has been studied primarily for its social and affective implications, and preliminary evidence for heightened sensory processing in individuals high in SPS.

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