The Relationship Between Sensorimotor Integration and Social Processing

Howard, Ellen M. (2023) The Relationship Between Sensorimotor Integration and Social Processing. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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To interact with the physical world, the brain must integrate information across multiple sensory and motor domains to create a stable representation of the body. Crucially, it is the effective integration of visual, tactile, proprioceptive, and motor information which creates the experience of a bodily self. The embodied cognition framework proposes that important social processes such as self-awareness, perspective-taking, and interpersonal synchrony are grounded within the bodily self. Thus, exploring the links between the senses, the body, and social processes can elucidate how humans interact, understand each other, and move in time with each other. Research investigating why certain populations show differences in how they socially interact can shed further light on the contribution of sensorimotor integration in social processing. Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterised by differences in social interaction, communication, and sensory processing. Research suggests that sensory processing differences may account for the characteristic differences in social behaviour in autism. However, the exact relationship between sensorimotor integration and social processing is not fully understood.

This thesis aimed to investigate the relationship between sensorimotor integration and social processing in autistic and non-autistic individuals. Chapter 2 found evidence to suggest that an internal representation of the body, built upon multisensory integration may be implicated in self-referential processing in non-autistic adults. Chapter 3 found evidence that whilst autistic adults exhibit self-referential processing it may not be related to sensorimotor integration and the body schema. These findings suggest that whilst non-autistic self-conceptualisation is intertwined with body representations, autistic self-conceptualisation may not. Chapter 4 found that altering the experience of self-location did not impact visual perspective-taking performance in non-autistic adults. Moreover, visuo-proprioceptive-motor integration was not found to relate to the ability to take another person’s perspective. This finding elucidates the role of sensorimotor integration and internal representations of the body in visual perspective-taking. Chapter 5 found that sensorimotor and joint action processes facilitate interpersonal synchrony and subsequent social bonding in typically developing children and adults. Importantly, these findings suggest that sensorimotor processes are key for developing the ability to move in time with another person and benefit from subsequent social bonding. Chapter 6 found that autistic adults experience sensory fluctuations across multiple modalities and that these sensory differences have a significant impact on their daily lives, including social well-being. Together, the present thesis evidences the intertwined relationship between internal representations of the body, sensorimotor integration, and how we understand and interact with others. Importantly, it also demonstrates the crucial roles of multisensory experience, and body representation, in the mental, physical, and social well-being of autistic adults.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Ropar, Danielle
Newport, Roger
Keywords: learning, sensorimotor integration, brain, cortex, social cognition
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Q Science > QP Physiology > QP351 Neurophysiology and neuropsychology
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Science > School of Psychology
Item ID: 73846
Depositing User: Howard, Ellen
Date Deposited: 22 Jul 2023 04:40
Last Modified: 22 Jul 2023 04:40

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