by Kara Murez
TUESDAY, Jan. 31, 2023 (HealthDay News) — People with autism feel pain more acutely than others, the opposite of what is true for many people, new research suggests.
The prevailing belief is that people with autism are insensitive to pain, possibly due to a tendency to self-harm. However, “this assumption is not necessarily true,” said Dr. of the Sackler Faculty of Medicine at Tel Aviv University in Israel. Tami Bar-Shalita said.
“We know that attempts to suppress pain can lead to self-harm, and it may be that they injure themselves by activating, unconsciously, a physiological principle of ‘pain inhibits pain. mechanism,” Bar-Shalita said in a university news release.
The researchers wanted to know whether people with autism were more prone to injuries than the general population.
About 10% of the general population suffers from sensory modulation dysfunction, Bar-Shalita explained. This means a level of sensory hypersensitivity that can interfere with normal daily functioning, such as ignoring or adapting to buzzing or flickering lights or the hum of an air conditioner or fan.
Previous studies have found that people with this sensory modulation dysfunction experience more pain, Bar-Shalita said. This dysfunction occurs at a rate of 70% to 90% of people with autism. It is one of the criteria used to diagnose autism and is associated with autism severity.
The study included 52 adults with high-functioning autism and 52 healthy controls. To investigate the link between stimulus and response, the researchers used psychophysical tests to assess pain.
A researcher, using a computer, will control the duration and intensity of the stimulus. The person examined was asked to rank the intensity of the pain on a scale of 0 to 100.
The study found that people with autism are more prone to injuries and have less effective pain-relieving mechanisms.
“The prevailing belief was that they are ‘insensitive to pain’, and there are reports that medical and other professional staff treated them accordingly. The results of our study suggest that in most cases, the sensitivity to pain of people with autism is actually higher than most of the population, while at the same time they fail to effectively suppress painful stimuli,” Bar-Shalita said.
“We hope that our findings will benefit professionals and clinicians handling this population and contribute to the advancement of personalized treatment,” Bar-Shalita said.
The study was funded by the Israel Science Foundation. The findings were published in the journal pain ,
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on autism spectrum disorder.
Source: Tel Aviv University, news release, January 29, 2023