Sensory Processing, Arousal & Rumsfeld
When anything moves in the backyard, Rumsfeld, the 75-pound poodle, leaps to attention. His DNA was programmed over eons to be ready at any moment to eat, defend against or have sex with anything that moves.
In Rumsfeld’s canine world, motion equals novelty. Novelty creates “arousal,” a power surge in the nervous system. His body readies to engage this new opportunity – or crisis.
He focuses his attention and makes one of several choices…
- Squirrel – chase it!
- Neighbor’s cat – chase it!
- Watson – approach. He may want to play.
- Yard Man – duck and cover. Dude growls like a big truck.
- Sprinkler – never mind, go back to sleep.
Every organism has a baseline level of arousal. An individual can be as laid back as a St. Bernard or wound as tight as a terrier. But, as a matter of survival, all creatures are designed to become aroused by novelty.
You can test this with humans. Stand in a crowded room where no one is paying attention to you and ask in a slightly elevated and excited voice, “What’s that?” See how many heads turn.
We are constantly monitoring and filtering sensation.
Any change in light, sound, smell, vibration or taste puts the body on alert and focuses the brain.
It is in this state of arousal that learning occurs and new neural pathways are forged. Whether it’s good or bad: if we are aroused, we respond (on some level) and we remember. General Rule: The greater the arousal, the stronger the memory.
SPD is intricately involved in arousal.
Clogs in neuronal pathways may cause any or all of the following:
- too easily aroused by certain stimulation
- unable to filter out benign stimulation
- unresponsive to certain stimulation
- slow to return to baseline after arousal
- prolonged or even chronic state of frenzied over-arousal
- deadened inability to be aroused by anything less than disaster (this occurs after prolonged or unbearable overstimulation)
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