Helping Kids with Sensory Processing Disorders

Helping Kids with Sensory Processing Disorders
Thanks to the generous community, our campaign has raised more than $101,504 toward improving SPD patient care and research. Please make a special gift today. 
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Helping Kids with Sensory Processing Disorders

Imagine if your mother’s touch felt like being raked by sandpaper, or the sounds of a vacuum felt like an explosion in your head — this is part of the daily experience of some children with sensory processing disorders.  

Thanks to ongoing groundbreaking new work from UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital San Franciscoa deeper understanding of the relationship between brain wiring and auditory and tactile processing in children with Sensory Processing Disorders has been found. There is much work to be done and a funding gap. We still need to:

  • further understand the genetic causes of sensory processing differences
  • uncover risk factors for SPD
  • measure the neurologic brain differences in affected individuals
  • determine if current interventions are truly effective for brain plasticity
  • develop new therapies based on scientific evidence

In the past year, we identified a gene that is associated with SPD.  We reported a bedside examination that differentiates children with SPD from children without sensory sensitivities. Most excitingly, we are now showing that children with SPD and attention challenges have brains that not only function differently but also can be rewired with video game based cognitive training.  We are working on getting these findings out to the community to make a difference for our families with SPD.

You can pave the way for a new era of sensory research and therapies by helping UCSF’s scientific sensory processing team reach their funding goal of $75,000. We welcome your gift and especially appreciate your passing the word by talking to your friends, posting to your social media sites, and sharing this information with your community. 


Your gift is crucial! Your contribution, no matter how big or small, will advance our understanding of sensory processing and assist us in creating a new model of care for individuals affected by sensory processing disorders.  Your gift will immediately help fund brain imaging, genetic testing, treatment trials, or detailed nervous system assessments.


UC San Francisco's pioneering Sensory Processing Group, led by Dr. Elysa Marco, consists of neuroscientists, neurologists, geneticists, radiologists, computational experts, and video game developers who are united in their determination to urgently help kids with SPD and related neurodevelopmental challenges.  Learn about our project investigators by clicking on the bios in the upper right corner of this page listed under "Project Owners."

To learn more visit:


Genetic Discoveries. Recent work by SPD Consortium members suggests that up to 50% of sensory hypersensitivity has a genetic contribution.  With the collaboration of Elliott Sherr, MD, PhD, we have begun whole exome sequencing for families of children with SPD. Exome sequencing allows us to probe the letter by letter code of all protein coding genes.  This technology is revolutionizing our understanding of autism, schizophrenia, and other neurodevelopmental conditions.  This is the FIRST study to investigate which genes may be associated with SPD.  These studies are expensive. Research analysis for just one family costs $3,000.

Brain Imaging Discoveries. Drs. Elysa MarcoPratik MukherjeeJulia Owens, and YiShin Chang are exploring the specific brain connections that most contribute to the practical challenges experienced by children with SPD, autism, and related disorders.  Their pioneering work has shown profound underconnectivity in children with SPD with both similarities and differences when compared to children with an autism diagnosis.  We continue to work to clarify the neural networks responsible for challenges with auditory and tactile processing, distractibility, fine motor control, and visuomotor coordination - challenges affecting many of our children.   Each brain scan costs $550.

Video Game Treatments. In collaboration with Adam Gazzaley, MD, PhD, and Joaquin Anguera, PhD, we are testing a fun, computer-training tool that plays like a game.  Each child in our trial takes an iPad home for daily play that we monitor from our lab.  We learn how the game play builds visuomotor control, attention, and strong and efficient brain connections using before and after brain scans and cognitive testing. Click here for more information about using video games for brain plasticity.  Computer Training costs $250.

From the Lab to the Clinic. Funding from this campaign will facilitate bringing our pioneering discoveries into the clinic, which will have direct impact on the daily lives of our families.  Our clinical caregivers include neurologists, neuropsychologists, educational specialists, nurses, and occupational therapists who can make a world of difference to SPD kids and their families. Funding these ancillary clinical services is challenging in our current medical system.  If all families touched by SPD gave $25, our clinic could provide needed assessment and support to each family that entered our doors.

Click on "Give Today" to make your gift. For assistance with your support, please contact Jennifer Lyon, UCSF Director of Annual and Special Giving, at 415-476-8975 or

Thank you for supporting our research and sharing our hope for a future where children with sensory differences will get the support they need and deserve.