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Practical Advice for the Highly Sensitive Brain

Sensitivity is associated with enhanced activation of brain regions implicated in awareness, memory, and empathy. However, this comes with a cost such as greater risk for over-arousal and overstimulation.

Preliminary evidence suggests that for highly sensitive individuals “rest” may be especially critical for information integration and return to a well-balanced state.

How reliable is genetic sensitivity research for application in practice?

Intervention research has recently started to focus on genetic differences in order to explain why interventions work better for some than others. However, establishing the reliability of such genetic research is fundamental.

The relation between sensitivity and common personality traits

Research has shown that sensitivity is related to common personality traits, such as Neuroticism and Openness to Experiences.
The association with Neuroticism reflects the tendency of sensitive people to experience stress more easily.
In contrast, Openness to Experiences seems to capture sensitive people’s aesthetic sensitivity and their deep processing of information.

Sensitivity is in our genes (but not only!)

Our study investigated the heritability of sensitivity.

Results showed that 47 percent of the differences in sensitivity between individuals are genetically determined, whereas the remaining 53 percent are accounted for by environmental factors.

The Good and Bad of Sensitivity in Teachers

As part of my doctoral research, I investigated sensitivity among teachers. Results show that being highly sensitivity has strengths as well as weaknesses for teachers.

Sensitive teachers reported having more empathy towards their students, but also experienced more difficulties with the challenging aspects of the teaching profession.

People fall into different sensitivity groups: Orchids, Tulips and Dandelions

Should we understand sensitivity as a continuous dimension that ranges from low to high or as a category, with some people being highly sensitive and others not?

Parenting Quality and Sensitive Children

Parenting quality matters for all children, but especially so for children that are more sensitive.

Highly sensitive children are at greater risk to develop behavioural problems than less sensitive children when experiencing harsh or permissive parenting.

Brain Response of Sensitive People to Emotional Pictures

In response to emotional pictures, highly sensitive people show brain activity in areas associated with reward processing, emotional memory, vigilance/fear, learning, homeostasis, awareness, reflective thinking, and integration of information.

The Birth of the Research on High Sensitivity

The study of high sensitivity began with curiosity about the casual use of the term “sensitive” among psychologists. It led to interviews, and based on these, to the 27-item Highly Sensitive Person Scale. 

Environmental sensitivity and serotonin transporter gene variance: from rats to humans

Environmental Sensitivity is seen in both animals and humans, suggesting that is has a strong biological foundation.