Sensory integration can be defined as the is the ability to take in sensory data, organize, and process the information from the senses for practical use. According to Dr. Jane Ayres, a pioneer in the identification of this brain function, a person exhibits adequate sensory integration when he or she demonstrates successful adaptive (or goal-directed) responses to the environment. This is an active process and indicates that the central nervous system has been able to successfully organize incoming sensory information. The person uses the sensory information that is received, in an automatic way, without thinking about it so it is not initially, at least, a cognitive process; it is a decoding process. Research by Diamond and others, has shown that an enriched sensory environment influences the brain positively, and that sensory deprivation, or an inability to process the input appropriately, may negatively impact the organization of the central nervous system and brain. The complexity of the sensory input can influence neurological changes and result in more dendrites being formed around neurons, a process known as neuroplasticity. This is what enables the nervous system to be changed or modified. Neuroscience research has demonstrated that when animals and humans are allowed to explore and interact with environments that are meaningful and interesting to them, there are significant increases in the formation of synaptic connections between the neurons that send messages within the brain. As with other brain functions, problems can arise. More on that tomorrow.