Autism and Skydiving: Does having the disorder make any difference?

Autistic people often have difficulty with processing sensory information.

Autism and Skydiving

A recent study about understanding sensory differences is a “Time Critical Priority” explains Dr. James Cusack. Earlier studies indicated that there wasn’t any significant difference when senses of smells were taken into consideration between non-autistic and autistic individuals.

However, in the present study, researchers tested autistic individuals’ “smell of fear.”

To have a better understanding, researchers collected the sweat samples from individuals taking part in skydiving classes. The responses of autistic individuals were compared with non-autistic individuals as a part of the normal exercise.

Interestingly, when individuals who did not have autism were presented with these sweat samples to smell, their bodies were seen to react with normal fear responses and their skin tones were observed to have its electrical conductivity increased.

However, when the same exercise was performed with autistic individuals, the results were the exact opposite. The skydivers’ sweat was seen to actually lower their fear responses. Further, being exposed to “calm sweats” was seen to increase their fear levels.

To have an in-depth understanding of the obtained results, researchers asked the participating groups to complete additional tasks under mannequin instructions that were carefully replicated to emit similar sweat odors that were collected as a part of the previous exercise.

Nevertheless, researchers observed the responses to be reversed in individuals diagnosed with autism.

The results highlighted that autistic participants placed better trust in “fear-induced smells” in comparison with “calm smells.”

Researchers suggest that the results so far obtained suggest autistic individuals end up misreading olfactory or odor-based cues. Further, the research team argues these results could provide critical clues about the unique way in which an autistic individual’s brain develops.

Professor Sobel explains, “Although speculations at this point in time are still rife, we hope further research and ongoing experiments in our labs will help gain better clarity of the functions of unconscious odor based social cues as well as an in-depth analysis in understanding social disorders such as autism.”

“Nevertheless, the study is a result of a very well designed experimental questionnaire and having the results replicated is critical for understanding the diverse nature of symptoms associated with disorders such as ASD,” says Dr. Cusack.

“We have seen that sensory perceptions in autistic individuals are modified and altered unlike their regular peers, and understanding this in greater accuracy – even if it involves a smaller subset of people – can present us with valuable information,” says Dr. Cusack.

Autism and Skydiving: Does having the disorder make any difference?
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Autism and Skydiving: Does having the disorder make any difference?
A thought-provoking article about how autistic and non-autistic individuals perceive fear
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