maandag 12 april 2010

Ultra-sensitive? It’s in your brain

http://highlysensitive.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/TomsDiner.jpg
Photorealist painting is one form of creative expression that demands a high degree of technical prowess and attention to detail.
 
The image is Tom’s Diner, 1993, a watercolor by Ralph Goings – from the book Photorealism at the Millennium, by Louis K. Meisel, Linda Chase.

A recent CNN article on “sensory processing sensitivity” reports that people with this trait “tended to have more brain activity in the high-order visual processing regions.” 

 Here is the article:


Ultra-sensitive? It’s in your brain, by Elizabeth Landau
CNN.com Health Writer/Producer

If you are particularly sensitive to the world around you – whether it’s music, caffeine, other people’s emotions, you may have a personality trait called “sensory processing sensitivity.”

People who are highly sensitive in this way tend to look and observe and process things deeply, as opposed to boldly going ahead, says Elaine Aron, professor of psychology at Stony Brook University, who helped pioneer research on the subject in the 1990s. 
Having vivid dreams and being aware of subtleties in your environment are also characteristic of this temperament, she said.

 
Now, Aron’s group has shown evidence in the brain that these people are more detail-oriented. The study is published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience. [See abstract below.]

Researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to look at the brains of 18 participants. They found that people with sensory processing sensitivity tended to have more brain activity in the high-order visual processing regions, and in the right cerebellum, when detecting minor details of photographs presented to them.

“They are better at noticing subtle details in their environments than people without the trait,” said Jadzia Jagiellowicz, lead author and doctoral candidate in the department of psychology at Stony Brook University.

Sensory processing sensitivity has been associated with introversion, but only loosely – about 30 percent of highly sensitive people are extroverts, Aron said.

Highly sensitive people probably make good counselors and recruiters, said Jagiellowicz, because of their attention to detail. They are able to more deeply process details as well as emotions, which are good skills in these professions. Accounting, which requires taking in a lot of information at once, may also be a relevant field, she said.

But the study showed that highly sensitive people do not quickly take in these details; in fact, they spend more time looking at them, so a job that requires a quick assessment of minutiae may not be the best fit, she said.

From Paging Dr. Gupta – CNN.com Blogs, April 7, 2010


Response to subtle changes in visual scenes
The trait of sensory processing sensitivity and neural responses to changes in visual scenes
By Jadzia Jagiellowicz, Xiaomeng Xu, Arthur Aron, Elaine Aron et al.
Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, Oxford Journals

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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