Sensory Therapies

By Jade Sirisompan

Distributed across our bodies are diverse receptors—nerve endings engineered to receive input from our surroundings or to monitor internal signals pertaining to our well-being.We possess a variety of sensory faculties. These faculties consist of distinct collections of receptors with individualized functions—specific roles dedicated to relaying information from the external environment back to the brain.These faculties encompass the auditory, visual, tactile, proprioceptive, olfactory (smell), and gustatory (taste) pathways. Utilizing sensory therapies that target these faculties can have a positive impact on brain function through neuroplasticity. Essentially, we can employ stimulation of these senses to assist the brain.While these therapies can specifically target certain regions of the brain, it is important to note that the brain functions through connectomes, where multiple areas work together to perform tasks or operations. As a result, sensory therapies often have the ability to influence more than just a particular brain region.Sensory therapies, as forms of neuroplasticity therapies, can be employed to create, restore, enhance, or maintain brain function.

Sensory therapies include:

Auditory therapies

Olfactory /Scent therapies

Gustatory therapies

Sensory Integration therapy

Vision therapies

Movement-based therapies

Sensory Therapies

Distributed across our bodies are diverse receptors—nerve endings engineered to receive input from our surroundings or to monitor internal signals pertaining to our well-being.We possess a variety of sensory faculties. These faculties consist of distinct collections of receptors with individualized functions—specific roles dedicated to relaying information from the external environment back to the brain.These faculties encompass the auditory, visual, tactile, proprioceptive, olfactory (smell), and gustatory (taste) pathways. Utilizing sensory therapies that target these faculties can have a positive impact on brain function through neuroplasticity. Essentially, we can employ stimulation of these senses to assist the brain.While these therapies can specifically target certain regions of the brain, it is important to note that the brain functions through connectomes, where multiple areas work together to perform tasks or operations. As a result, sensory therapies often have the ability to influence more than just a particular brain region.Sensory therapies, as forms of neuroplasticity therapies, can be employed to create, restore, enhance, or maintain brain function.

Sensory therapies include:

Auditory therapies

Olfactory /Scent therapies

Gustatory therapies

Sensory Integration therapy

Vision therapies

Movement-based therapies

Auditory therapies

These therapies are specifically designed to utilize sound as a means to stimulate and heal specific regions, connectomes, and pathways in the brain that are involved in the process of listening. This encompasses the ability to differentiate between different sounds, interpret them, and even the emotional responses associated with those sounds, including music. To begin these therapies, individuals often undergo a listening test. It should be noted that this test differs from a standard hearing test, as it evaluates how the brain processes the sounds it receives rather than simply assessing auditory acuity. Auditory therapy refers to a range of interventions and techniques aimed at improving auditory processing and addressing difficulties related to hearing and listening. It is often used to support individuals with auditory processing disorders, language and communication disorders, learning disabilities, and other conditions that affect auditory perception and processing. The goal of auditory therapy is to enhance the individual’s ability to process and make sense of auditory information. This may involve various activities and exercises designed to strengthen auditory skills, such as auditory discrimination (differentiating between sounds), auditory sequencing (recognizing and reproducing the order of sounds or words), auditory memory (recalling and retaining auditory information), and auditory integration (integrating auditory input with other sensory information).

Auditory therapy can take different forms, including structured listening programs, music-based interventions, sound stimulation techniques, and interactive computer-based activities. These interventions often utilize specialized equipment like headphones, sound generators, and specific auditory stimuli tailored to the individual’s needs.

By engaging in auditory therapy, individuals can potentially improve their auditory processing abilities, enhance listening skills, and develop better communication and learning outcomes. It is important to note that auditory therapy should be administered by trained professionals who can tailor the therapy to the individual’s specific needs and monitor progress throughout the process.

Olfactory/Scent therapies

Olfactory or scent therapy, also known as aromatherapy, is a complementary therapy that utilizes the sense of smell to promote physical, emotional, and mental well-being. It involves the use of aromatic substances, typically essential oils derived from plants, to stimulate the olfactory system and influence various physiological and psychological processes.

The practice of olfactory therapy dates back centuries and is based on the belief that certain scents have therapeutic properties. When inhaled, the molecules from essential oils interact with the olfactory receptors in the nose, which then transmit signals to the brain’s limbic system, responsible for emotions, memory, and behavior.

The essential oils used in olfactory therapy can be inhaled directly, diffused in the air, or applied topically after dilution. Each essential oil has unique properties and is believed to have specific effects on the body and mind. For example, lavender is commonly used for relaxation and stress reduction, while peppermint is associated with increased alertness and improved focus.

Olfactory therapy is often used to address various conditions and symptoms, such as anxiety, insomnia, headaches, nausea, and respiratory issues. It can also be used to enhance mood, promote relaxation, and create a soothing environment.

It is important to note that olfactory therapy should be used with caution, and it is advisable to consult with a trained aromatherapist or healthcare professional before using essential oils, especially for individuals with allergies, sensitivities, or specific medical conditions.

Gustatory (Taste) therapies

Gustatory therapies involve the use of taste sensations and flavors to support various aspects of health and well-being. While not as widely recognized or utilized as other sensory therapies, gustatory interventions can play a role in certain therapeutic approaches.

One example of gustatory therapy is taste aversion conditioning, which is often used in behavioral therapies to help individuals overcome unhealthy or undesirable eating habits. This therapy involves pairing an aversive stimulus, such as an unpleasant taste, with a specific food or substance that the individual wants to avoid. The aim is to create a negative association with the target item, leading to a reduced desire or avoidance of it.

In some cases, specific tastes or flavors may be recommended or used as part of dietary interventions to support individuals with specific medical conditions or dietary needs. For instance, individuals with certain autoimmune diseases or allergies may be advised to avoid certain tastes or flavors that can trigger symptoms or reactions.

Certain tastes and flavors can have a direct impact on mood and emotions. Gustatory therapies may utilize specific tastes or aromas known for their mood-enhancing properties. For example, citrus scents and flavors are often associated with increased energy and uplifted mood, while lavender or chamomile can promote relaxation and stress reduction. By incorporating these tastes and flavors into gustatory therapies, individuals can potentially manage their emotional states and improve overall well-being.

It’s worth noting that gustatory therapies are typically used in conjunction with other treatment approaches and are tailored to the individual’s specific needs and goals.

Qualified professionals in the field of Functional Neurology also employ this therapy.

Sensory Integration therapy

Sensory Integration therapy is a therapeutic approach designed to help individuals with sensory processing difficulties, particularly those with sensory integration disorders or sensory processing disorders (SPD). It aims to address challenges in processing and integrating sensory information from the environment to promote improved functioning and participation in daily activities.

The therapy is based on the understanding that our sensory systems (such as touch, vision, hearing, taste, smell, proprioception, and vestibular) play a crucial role in our ability to interact effectively with the world around us. In individuals with sensory processing difficulties, these sensory systems may be over-responsive (hypersensitive), under-responsive (hyposensitive), or have difficulty in integrating and organizing sensory input.

Sensory Integration therapy involves engaging individuals in a controlled, structured, and playful environment that provides a range of sensory experiences. The therapy sessions are typically led by trained occupational therapists who create activities that challenge and stimulate the individual’s sensory systems. These activities may include swinging, jumping, climbing, tactile play, balancing, and other sensory-rich experiences.

 

The goals of Sensory Integration therapy may include:

Enhancing sensory processing abilities: The therapy aims to improve the individual’s ability to process and integrate sensory information effectively, leading to a more accurate perception of the environment.

Modulating sensory responses: It helps individuals regulate their sensory responses, allowing them to better adapt to different sensory stimuli and prevent sensory overload or withdrawal.

Improving motor skills and coordination: Sensory Integration therapy often incorporates activities that promote motor planning, coordination, and body awareness, leading to improved gross and fine motor skills.

Promoting self-regulation and emotional well-being: By supporting sensory integration, the therapy can assist individuals in developing self-regulation skills, managing emotions, and reducing anxiety related to sensory experiences.

Sensory Integration therapy is primarily used with children, although it can also benefit adolescents and adults with sensory processing difficulties. It is typically provided through individualized sessions tailored to the specific needs and sensory profiles of each individual.

Sensory Integration therapy promotes well-being by improving sensory regulation, enhancing emotional well-being, increasing self-awareness, supporting functional skills, and fostering enjoyment and engagement in daily activities.

Vision therapies

Vision therapies encompass a range of interventions designed to address visual problems and enhance visual skills. These therapies aim to improve visual acuity, eye coordination, visual processing, and other aspects of visual function.

Vision therapies improve visual comfort, enhance visual skills, and support overall well-being. They address visual challenges, such as discomfort and fatigue, while enhancing skills like eye coordination, focusing, tracking, and visual processing. These therapies improve visual performance, cognitive function, academic success, and overall quality of life. Working with professionals, individuals receive personalized treatment plans to optimize their visual well-being.

Vision therapists often work collaboratively with other healthcare professionals, such as educators, occupational therapists, and speech-language pathologists. This interdisciplinary approach ensures that visual issues are addressed within the broader context of an individual’s needs and goals.

Movement-based therapies

Movement-based therapies encompass a variety of therapeutic approaches that utilize movement and physical activity to promote physical, cognitive, and emotional well-being. These therapies recognize the powerful connection between movement and overall health, and they are often used to address various conditions and support neuroplasticity.

Movement-based therapies utilize movement and physical activity to promote well-being. They improve physical strength, coordination, and motor skills while benefiting cognitive function and emotional regulation. Examples include dance/movement therapy, yoga therapy, therapeutic exercise, Tai Chi, Feldenkrais Method, and therapeutic play and recreation. These therapies are administered by qualified professionals to address specific needs and enhance overall health.

Movement-based therapies engage and integrate the senses to promote well-being. These therapies incorporate activities that stimulate proprioception, the vestibular system, tactile input, visual engagement, and sometimes auditory involvement. By targeting multiple senses, movement-based therapies enhance sensory processing, body awareness, coordination, and emotional regulation. They contribute to physical development, cognitive function, and social engagement.

Examples of movement-based therapies include:

  • INPP (Institute of Neuro-Physiological Psychology)
  • RMT (Rhythmic Movement Therapy)
  • Brain Gym
  • Kindiroo

Locate a practitioner

Please refer to the contact list below for professionals and resources specializing in various sensory & neuroplasticity therapies:

  •  Functional Neurology Practitioners
  • Therapy Centers & Schools
  • Lifestyle Interventions Practitioners
  • Nutrition Practitioners
  • Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Practitioners
  • Sensory Neuroplasticity Therapists
  • Behavioral Optometrists / Vision Therapy Providers
  • Auditory Therapy Specialists

Sensory Integration Therapists

Movement-based Therapy Practitioners

Structural Neuroplasticity Therapists

Vestibular (Balance) Therapy Providers

Brain Training Therapy Experts

Please note that the contact information for specific practitioners and resources would need to be obtained separately.

Links: https://www.neurofrontiers.org/resources/practitioner-locator/