Altered Cerebellar White Matter in Sensory Processing Dysfunction Is Associated With Impaired Multisensory Integration and Attention

Sensory processing dysfunction (SPD) is characterized by a behaviorally observed difference in the response to sensory information from the environment. While the cerebellum is involved in normal sensory processing, it has not yet been examined in SPD. Diffusion tensor imaging scans of children with SPD (n = 42) and typically developing controls (TDC; n = 39) were compared for fractional anisotropy (FA), mean diffusivity (MD), radial diffusivity (RD), and axial diffusivity (AD) across the following cerebellar tracts: the middle cerebellar peduncles (MCP), superior cerebellar peduncles (SCP), and cerebral peduncles (CP). Compared to TDC, children with SPD show reduced microstructural integrity of the SCP and MCP, characterized by reduced FA and increased MD and RD, which correlates with abnormal auditory behavior, multisensory integration, and attention, but not tactile behavior or direct measures of auditory discrimination. In contradistinction, decreased CP microstructural integrity in SPD correlates with abnormal tactile and auditory behavior and direct measures of auditory discrimination, but not multisensory integration or attention. Hence, altered cerebellar white matter organization is associated with complex sensory behavior and attention in SPD, which prompts further consideration of diagnostic measures and treatments to better serve affected individuals.

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