Sensory Processing Sensitivity (SPS)

The sensoriums black box

"The sense of a unified consciousness, the feeling of deciding and acting self-determined is just an illusion of self which our brains create and with which it "permanently misleads us"", says Michael Gazzanigas, a world-renowned American brain researcher. Human consciousness comes about in the interaction of numerous subsystems that interact dynamicly; Consciousness, which appears to us as "I", actually corresponds only to the need for explanation of our dominant half of the brain.


Long before we consciously see, hear, smell, taste, or feel something, our perceptions go through unconscious processing processes in developmentally older but fully functional parts of our brains. These parts of the brain, which, incidentally, hardly differ from those of mammals, are responsible for satisfying survival-necessary impulses, such as food supply, sexuality or safety. Impulse desires are expressed through unconscious emotions, such as desire, joy, disappointment or fear. The whole organism is immediately adjusted to the respective requirement, so that we are always in balance, whether at exertion or at rest. All this takes place unconsciously and without our arbitrarily intervention. What penetrates at the end of this process through the "gateway to consciousness", the thalamus, to the associative centers in the cerebrum, usually does not correspond to reality, but to what we unconsciously desire, love, hate or fear. How many of these "underground impulses" penetrate into our consciousness as feelings is very different individually. Rational thinking people are less influenced by the unconscious proportion of sensory sensations than sensitive and empathetic people.


Sensory Processing Sensitivity is a personality trait

The SPS distinguishes people more than any other characteristic. Sensitive people are renowned for their strong feeling as "we", their commitment to existential needs and their efforts to live in harmony with nature. The world could use more sensitive people well.

On the other hand, highly sensitive people are so easily impressed that they often feel overwhelmed by the slightest stimuli, be it a soulful piece of music, a careless comment, an unpleasant smell or a birch pole.

Due to their heightened sensitivity to perception people with Sensory Processing Sensitivity tend to fall for "false alarms" and tend to develop mental and physical disorders more so than others. (Liffler P., Peters E., Gieler U. Are there indications of "sensory processing sensitivity" (SPS) in atopically predisposed persons? 2019).


The SENS-E-Test

In a years-long development process, a screening method was developed that quickly and reliably indicates sensory processing sensitivity. For the first time the SENS-E Test would allow to not only reliably measure the degree of the SPS, but also to prove a connection to certain diseases. (Liffler P., Fölster-Holst R., Gieler U., Peters E.: SENS-E, Development and testing of a screening instrument for the detection of sensory processing sensitivity, 2020).


Meanwhile, first studies have shown that people with high sensory processing sensitivity are twice as likely to develop allergic diseases and up to 4 times more likely to develop anxiety disorders or unipolar depression. In these studies only 10 to 15 percent of these diseases were genetic or had developed as a result of existing internal or external stressors. Contrary to previous assumptions, it does not appear that the strength of the external stressors, such as e. g. psychological stress, is decisive, but what happens in sensory processing. The sensitivity of the structures involved plays a decisive role in this.


With the discovery of this connection, we have for the first time a predictor that allows a more differentiated diagnosis of diseases. We are no longer dependent on experience and presumption, but can make reliable statements about the pathogenesis of diseases and treat them causally. Clinical studies with different settings will show whether the current findings are transferable to medical care.