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URMC / Labs / Bennetto Lab / Projects / Past Projects / Taste Smell and Feeding Behavior in Autism- A Quantitative Traits Study

Taste Smell and Feeding Behavior in Autism - A Quantitative Traits Study

Project Collaborators:

Dr. Susan Hyman , Dr. Christopher Stodgell

Photo of sample vials

In our study of Taste, Smell, and Feeding Behavior, we use standardized measures
to determine people’s ability to detect and identify common tastes and odors.

In our previous work, we found that individuals with autism process tastes and smells differently from their peers. Furthermore, these differences may be related to their likes and dislikes of certain foods. In this study, we are building on these findings to better understand sensory functions in children with autism spectrum disorders and their families. We hope this study will help to advance autism research and clinical practice in several ways.

First, it is extremely important to document and describe sensory sensitivities in autism. Although they are not part of the autism diagnosis, they are a very real problem for many children and can greatly affect learning, behavior, and overall well-being. Second, many parents report that their children with autism are picky eaters. The consequences of picky eating can range from minor challenges in meal planning to very significant health risks. We hope that a better understanding of how sensory processing relates to food choices will improve intervention efforts in this area.

Photo of test subject smelling a test sample

One of our taste identification measures. We are interested in how
people's detection and perceptions of taste and smell may
influence their food choices.

Finally, many taste and smell processing abilities run in families. In this study, we will also work with parents and siblings of children with autism. By understanding how specific sensory abilities and food preferences are shared within families, this project will also help us identify genes that may be important in this aspect of autism.

This study is being funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

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