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Psychopathology and Patterns of Sensory Processing In Non-suicidal Self-Injured Adolescents: Insights from Neuropsychological and Neurophysiological Studies

Author(s): Paola Lanteri, Irene Serio, Antonella Aurigo, Serena Rebora, Carlo Chiorri, Sergio Garbarino, Lucia Sciarretta

Background and objectives
Nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI) is most common in adolescent populations whose prevalence
is continuously increasing. The underlying neurobiology of NSSI and pain processing has
not yet sufficiently understood. Alterations of the sensory processing and modulation could
explain the emotional dysregulation. We investigated the clinical usefulness of short and longlatency
somatosensory evoked potentials (Sh and LL-SSEPs) as indirect evaluation of sensory
processing characteristics, compared to psychological, sensory and behavioural measures in
adolescents with NSSI.

A group of 12 patients with NSSI and a control group comprised 9 patients with other
psychopathological disorders without NSSI were investigated with the Self Harm subscale of
the Risk-Taking and Self-Harm Inventory for Adolescents, the Italian form of assessment of
self-injurious behaviour, the Adult/Adolescent the Sensory Profile (SP), an Italian a self-report
psychiatric scale for children and adolescents (SAFA), Theory of Mind and Affect Recognition
subscale of NEPSY II. All data tests were compare to median nerve Sh-LL SEP. We adopted a
Bayesian approach to the statistical analyses.

The two groups substantially differed in some scales of the SAFA with higher scores in the
subscale of inadequacy, anorexic conduct and body acceptance, and in lower scores in the
Emotional/social response of SP in the NSSI group.

Prolonged latency of N140 LL-SEPs could be considered a marker for the altered ability to
modulate the incoming sensory responses in a group of adolescents with NSSI. This could
be the basis of the emotional dysregulation found in the NSSI subjects, with the consequent
impossibility to put in place adequate behavioral responses and predilection of deactivated
coping strategies. These hypotheses should be confirmed by future studies on larger samples.

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