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Neural Plasticity
Volume 2016, Article ID 1723401, 9 pages
Research Article

Abnormal Pressure Pain, Touch Sensitivity, Proprioception, and Manual Dexterity in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

1University Institute of Health Sciences Research (IUNICS-IdISPa), University of the Balearic Islands, 07122 Palma de Mallorca, Spain
2Department of Nursing and Physiotherapy, University of the Balearic Islands, 07122 Palma de Mallorca, Spain
3Clinic of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Brugmann University Hospital, 1020 Brussels, Belgium
4Institute of Neuroscience, Université catholique de Louvain, Brussels, Belgium

Received 30 July 2015; Revised 5 October 2015; Accepted 15 October 2015

Academic Editor: Etienne de Villers-Sidani

Copyright © 2016 Inmaculada Riquelme et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) often display an abnormal reactivity to tactile stimuli, altered pain perception, and lower motor skills than healthy children. Nevertheless, these motor and sensory deficits have been mostly assessed by using clinical observation and self-report questionnaires. The present study aims to explore somatosensory and motor function in children with ASD by using standardized and objective testing procedures. Methods. Tactile and pressure pain thresholds in hands and lips, stereognosis, proprioception, and fine motor performance of the upper limbs were assessed in high-functioning children with ASD and compared with typically developing peers .  Results. Children with ASD showed increased pain sensitivity, increased touch sensitivity in C-tactile afferents innervated areas, and diminished fine motor performance and proprioception compared to healthy children. No group differences were observed for stereognosis. Conclusion. Increased pain sensitivity and increased touch sensitivity in areas classically related to affective touch (C-tactile afferents innervated areas) may explain typical avoiding behaviors associated with hypersensitivity. Both sensory and motor impairments should be assessed and treated in children with ASD.