Neural Overload is an Aspie’s core challenge
by John Counsel
What is it?
The meaning of “neural overload” — also called “sensory overload” — tends to depend on whomever you’re talking with and their professional background. Like most things in life, the simplest explanation is often the best — provided, always, that it takes into account the latest known facts, especially in fields related to medical knowledge.
The problem is that medical science is so diverse and often insular, especially in the area of research.
So we end up with a range of terms, including Sensory Overload, Sensory Processing Disorder and more. Sensory overload has been found to be associated with other disorders and conditions such as:
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Fibromyalgia (FM)
- Chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS)
- Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Autistic spectrum disorders
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
- Schizophrenia (see also sensory gating)
- Sensory processing disorder
Neural overload — basically, jamming up of the relays along the axons, synapses and dendrites of neurons transmitting signals to the brain’s processing centres — can be sensory to begin, then result in acute anxiety/stress — and meltdown, freezing or shutdown, including serial shutdowns — once it crosses the stress threshold.
What causes it?
Let’s take a quick look at structure and function of neurons — nerve cells — that transmit sensory signals from our physical senses to our brain’s sensory processing centres (sight, sound, touch, taste and smell).
The core problem for people on the Autism Spectrum is the fact that they have many times more synapses — axons, synaptic gaps and dendrites — along their neurons than neurotypical people (who don’t have Autism).
These scans from NT and Autistic people show the kinds of issues this can cause for people with Autism…
This page is intended to provide a basic insight into the challenges that Neural Overload, Sensory Overload and Sensory Processing Disorder can present to people on the Autism Spectrum, what causes this challenge for us and why.
You can learn much more from our section on Neural Overload in the main menu at the top of each page.
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