Our brain is constantly bombarded with sensory information coming through our senses. The vast majority of this sensory information is filtered out before it reaches higher brain areas or consciousness (pre-attentively). Sensory filtering is a pre-requisite for higher cognitive functions such as attention, learning, social interactions, etc. A variety of neurodegenerative diseases and mental disorders, such as autism spectrum disorders and schizophrenia, are associated with disruptions in proper sensory filtering.
Sensory filtering disruptions are indicative of impairments in higher cognitive domains. Our lab studies mechanisms underlying normal sensory filtering and sensory filtering disruptions in animal models of schizophrenia and autism. We use two operational measures for sensory filtering in order to study the underlying mechanisms: habituation and prepulse inhibition of startle.