The Somatosensory System

presented by Tracy Stackhouse

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This course provides the fundamentals for understanding how to harness the power of the somatosensory system to influence optimal outcomes when somatosensory-based intervention is indicated. A basic overview of somatosensory function and anatomy, as well as central nervous system interaction, is provided. Somatosensory functions will be traced from the receptor through the primary and associated processing pathways. The content will include information on how to directly assess somatosensory functions, including discriminative processing and evaluative/modulation functions.

Meet Your Instructor

  • Tracy Stackhouse, MA, OTR/L

    Tracy Stackhouse is a clinical pediatric occupational therapist who has specialized in working with children, adults, and families affected by fragile x syndrome (FXS) and Fragile X related conditions since the late 1980s. Through this work, first at Children's Hospital in Denver, continuing at the UC Davis MIND Institute, and now at the nonprofit center she co-founded (Developmental FX), she has been able to provide continuity of care with hundreds of families affected by FXS. This allows her to offer a perspective to the families she serves and the colleagues with whom she collaborates about how FXS looks neurodevelopmentally. Tracy is committed to conducting research to advance the understanding and treatment of neurodevelopmental disabilities and FXS specifically. She is the director of the Developmental & Fragile X Resource Centre in Denver, CO, which is included as a part of the Denver Fragile X Clinic of the Fragile X Clinics and Research Consortium (FXCRC). She has been involved in fragile X clinical care and research since 1989 and has been involved with the National Fragile X Foundation (NFXF) since 1989, including active contribution to clinical materials and general advice. Tracy is a member of the Clinical Research Consortium of the NFXF, as well as a member of the Scientific and Clinical Advisory Committee. In 2013, she served as a consultant to Novartis during their clinical trial for a targeted treatment in FXS. Recently, she has been involved in the efforts to identify feasible and reliable neuromotor outcome measures that can be used in clinical trials. This project resulted in development of the FX Motor Battery, which is proposed to be further piloted in this study. Tracy is committed to the success of the proposed project and has a history of collaborative work with this research team that will support this project’s success.

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Chapters & Learning Objectives

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  1. Adaptive Somatosensory Functions:  What Somatosensation Does for Us

    1. Adaptive Somatosensory Functions: What Somatosensation Does for Us

    The focus of this chapter is to provide an overview of the adaptive functions of somatosensation, addressing what somatosensation does for us as a core function underlying a multitude of capacities. When there is a disruption in basic somatosensory processing, it is important to determine if the difficulties are related to sensory modulation, sensory discrimination, or a concert of both. This chapter provides an overview of the adaptive functions / last sentence: This introductory chapter helps to frame the core somatosensory adaptive functions.

  2. Receptors

    2. Receptors

    In this chapter, the somatosensory receptors are reviewed based on stimulus type and receptor type. These two classic categories allow for different ways of thinking about how somatosensation is processed for different purposes. Knowledge of receptor types allows for careful consideration of treatment modalities and approaches, thus providing the neurological foundation for evidence-based practice.

  3. Pathways and Functions

    3. Pathways and Functions

    Chapter Three provides a review of the primary pathways and functions of somatosensation, which elucidates the sensory discrimination and sensory modulation structural and functional differences as well as the precision of the nervous system in replicating receptor fields into central detail maps for use. Somatosensation is processed from receptor, through distinct pathways, into discrete adaptive functions that contribute widely to many neurologically based capacities. As such, it is a critical system and often disrupted in individuals with a variety of neurodevelopmental challenges.

  4. Assessment of Somatosensory Function With Demonstrations

    4. Assessment of Somatosensory Function With Demonstrations

    This final chapter reviews assessment of somatosensation, including both formal / There are standardized and non-standardized versions of tests for the primary somatosensory functions. The classic assessments evaluate sensory discrimination and sensorimotor-related functions. The classic assessments evaluate sensory discrimination and sensory motor related functions. In order to determine sensory modulation qualities, qualitative observation is required. From assessment, keys to treatment are reviewed. The chapter utilizes an Ayres’ Sensory Integration approach and general treatment principals so that assessment and treatment are tied together for best practice use of somatosensation therapeutically.