2009 Caroline Thompson Memorial Lecture

OT student doing research with child
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2009 Caroline Thompson Memorial Lecture

Patricia L. Davies, PhD, OTR, FAOTA
Associate Professor, Department of Occupational Therapy
Colorado State University
“Investigating the Brain Physiology Underlying Sensory Processing Disorders: Deficits in Auditory Detection and Filtering”

Thursday, October 29, 2009

photo of Patericia Davies

About Patricia Davies

Davies has provided occupational therapy services in various pediatric settings for over 20 years, including public schools, preschools, residential schools, and hospitals. She received her Ph.D. in Neuroscience and Developmental Psychology from the University of Wyoming. She serves as the Executive Director of the Brainwaves Research Laboratory at Colorado State University. Her research focuses on three goals: (1) to examine brain development in children with and without disabilities; (2) to determine the effectiveness of rehabilitation for children with disabilities; and (3) to determine if rehabilitation produces changes in brain structure/function.

She has published articles related to treatment effectiveness and measurement issues in occupational therapy journals. Studies she has conducted regarding sensory, motor, and cognitive processes in children using electroencephalography (EEG) and behavioral measures have been published in journals such as Psychophysiology, Brain and Cognition, Developmental Neuropsychology, Annals of the New York Academy of Science, and the American Journal of Occupational Therapy.

She has presented her research at international conferences in Granada, Spain and Lisbon, Portugal as well as at national conferences across the United States such as the Society for Neuroscience, Society for Psychophysiological Research, Society for Research in Child Development, and the American Occupational Therapy Association. Davies has received grants as Principal Investigator from NIH and various foundations (e.g. AOTF and Wallace Research Foundation) to support her research.

Overview of Presentation

Sensory integration is a therapeutic approach that has been used for many years by occupational therapists and does have a strong potential to enhance occupational performance in children. Ayres described sensory integration as an approach used to enhance the brain’s ability to organize sensory input for use in functional behaviors (1972, 1979). Ayres’ theory of sensory integration has generated more research and controversy than any other theory developed by an occupational therapist (Bundy & Murray, 2002).

This presentation will provide a summary of her findings across several studies of how brain processing is different in children with SPD compared to children without disabilities. These studies focus specifically on detecting sensory stimuli and filtering incoming sensory information. The findings of these studies will be discussed with regard to the validation of the assumptions of the sensory integration theory and the potential use of EEG and event-related potentials (ERPs) technologies as diagnostic tools. For example, one of the studies conducted in Davies’ lab revealed that by using measures of brain activity (i.e., ERP) alone, children with SPD and children without disabilities can be correctly classified according to their group membership with very high accuracy. Implication for future research and clinical practice will be addressed.

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