Defining sensory modulation: A review of the concept and a contemporary definition for application by occupational therapists Academic Article uri icon


  • BACKGROUND:Sensory interventions are prevalent amongst adult mental health practitioners and are supported by major stakeholders and policy makers across the world. The term commonly used by occupational therapists applying sensory practices is sensory modulation, however this term has evolved. AIMS:This paper aims to investigate and clarify the definition of 'sensory modulation' for application by occupational therapists. METHOD:A framework guided this concept analysis on sensory modulation. A summative content analysis approach was employed to code results. RESULTS:Six conceptual themes for sensory modulation were identified. 81% of authors defined sensory modulation as consisting of more than one of these themes. 18% of authors defined sensory modulation as both a neurophysiological process and means to regulate behaviour. CONCLUSION:The concept of sensory modulation has evolved in occupational therapy practice. The authors summarise with the following proposed definition of sensory modulation for contemporary occupational therapy practice: 'Sensory modulation is considered a twofold process. It originates in the central nervous system as the neurological ability to regulate and process sensory stimuli; this subsequently offers the individual an opportunity to respond behaviourally to the stimulus'. SIGNIFICANCE:A contemporary definition of 'sensory modulation' has been identified for occupational therapy practice.

publication date

  • 2019