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Somatosensory effects of Temple Grandin’s squeeze box on hypersensitivity.

Problem

Autism has very diverse symptoms, and comprises many similar neurological disorders, which are classified as autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Temple Grandin is an autistic woman who is best known for her research on animal behavior, pressure therapy, and the design of the ‘squeeze box’ (shown in Figure 1), a pressure device she designed after observing the calming reaction in cattle during immunization when they were confined in a squeeze chute. As a toddler Grandin would rock, spin, or become fixated on objects for hours. Grandin suffered from hypersensitivity to touch, sound, and many other types of stimuli. Her reaction was often an intense, spontaneous, and uncontrollable panic attack. A noticeable change in her anxiety and sensitivity level occurs after approximately 5 to 15 minutes in the squeeze box, with diminishing results after 45 minutes to an hour. The perceptions of pain and hypersensitivity are psychophysical. Although there is a physiological factor, this does not fully describe the experienced pain or hypersensitivity.
An autism researcher conducted a study on the efficacy of Grandin’s squeeze box on children displaying signs of ASD. The child was shown how to operate the squeeze box; a trusted adult entered it and operated it, thereby demonstrating that the device was safe. The child was then asked to enter, was given control, and was asked to operate the machine for 15 minutes at different pressures throughout. Every 3 minutes the child’s stimulation was assessed. The data is shown in Figure 2 below.
Figure 1: Temple Grandin’s squeeze box, front view. A female subject is inside with her head and hands protruding. Deep touch pressure is applied by the squeeze box in response to the subject’s manipulation of the joystick (increasing and decreasing pressure consistently across the entire body).
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Figure 2: Average Likert scores for all subjects. Likert scale ranging from 1 to 5 (1 being calm, 5 being extremely stimulated). Each child was treated with the squeeze box for 15 minutes.
Adapted from: Grandin, T. (1992). Calming effects of deep touch pressure in patients with autistic disorder, college students, and animals. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology, 2(1), 63-72.
Which mechanoreceptors would likely fire when the squeeze box is first engaged and touching the child’s body and when pressure is released?