Perspectives on multisensory perception disruption in idiopathic environmental intolerance: a systematic review

  • Andrea VizianoEmail author
  • Alessandro Micarelli
  • Guido Pasquantonio
  • David Della-Morte
  • Marco Alessandrini



Multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) also known as idiopathic environmental intolerance/illness (IEI) encompasses a cohort of subjective symptoms characterized by susceptibility to a wide spectrum of environmental compounds, causing symptoms involving various organs and a decrease in quality of life. The aim of this systematic review is to summarize evidence about MCS, with focus on indexed studies analyzing sensory pathway-related disorders.


Medical databases were searched for English language articles related to the topic, published between 1965 and 2017 in academic, peer-reviewed journals. Particular focus was concentrated on articles depicting disturbances involving sensory organs. References of the relevant articles were examined to identify additional significant documents.


Fifty-eight studies were eligible for full text review. Of these, 34 studies met the selection criteria and were included in this analysis. Many variables, such as different diagnostic criteria, lack of homogeneous symptom questionnaires and the general incidence of personality traits in control subjects, biased studies as confounding factors. However, moderate evidences show that sensory pathways are somewhat altered, especially with respect to information processing in the limbic system and related cortical areas. Recent studies suggested the presence, in MCS cohorts, of attention bias, sensitization and limbic kindling, as well as recently revealed subclinical organic alterations along sensory pathways.


Evidences are consistent with MCS/IEI to be the result of a neural altered processing of sensorial ascending pathways, which combined with peculiar personality traits constitutes the underpinning of a multisensory condition needing multidisciplinary clinical approach.


Multiple chemical sensitivity Idiopathic environmental intolerance Sensitization Sensory processing 



The Authors would like to dedicate the present review article to the memory of Prof. Giuseppe Genovesi, who spent a large part of his life in deepening the unclear aspects of Idiopathic Environmental Illness.


The authors did not receive any funding support for this study.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Clinical Sciences and Translational MedicineUniversity of Rome‘Tor Vergata’RomeItaly
  2. 2.University of Rome Tor VergataRomeItaly
  3. 3.San Raffaele Roma Open UniversityRomeItaly
  4. 4.Department of Neurology, Miller School of MedicineUniversity of MiamiMiamiUSA

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