Research discovers link between epilepsy and autism

May 16, 2013
Research discovers link between epilepsy and autism
Brain wave on electroencephalogram.

(Medical Xpress)—University of Bath researchers have found a previously undiscovered link between epileptic seizures and the signs of autism in adults.

Dr SallyAnn Wakeford from the Department of Psychology revealed that adults with were more likely to have higher traits of autism and Asperger syndrome.

Characteristics of autism, which include impairment in and communication as well as restricted and repetitive interests, can be severe and go unnoticed for many years, having tremendous impact on the lives of those who have them.

The research found that disrupt the that affects social functioning in the brain resulting in the same traits seen in autism.

Dr Wakeford said: "The social difficulties in epilepsy have been so far under-diagnosed and research has not uncovered any underlying theory to explain them. This new research links to a deficit in somatic markers in the brain, explaining these characteristics in adults with epilepsy."

Dr Wakeford and her colleagues discovered that having increased autistic traits was common to all epilepsy types, however, this was more pronounced for adults with (TLE).

The researchers suggest that one explanation may be because anti-epileptic drugs are often less effective for TLE. The reason why they suspect these drugs are implicated is because they were strongly related to the severity of autistic characteristics.

Dr Wakeford carried out a comprehensive range of studies with volunteers with epilepsy and discovered that all of the adults with epilepsy showed autism traits.

She said: "It is unknown whether these adults had a typical developmental period during childhood or whether they were predisposed to having before the onset of their epilepsy. However what is known is that the of autistic characteristics in adults with epilepsy may be explained by social cognitive differences, which have largely been unrecognised until now."

Dr Wakeford said the findings could lead to improved treatment for people with epilepsy and autism. She said: "Epilepsy has a history of cultural stigma, however the more we understand about the psychological consequences of epilepsy the more we can remove the stigma and mystique of this condition.

"These findings could mean that adults with epilepsy get access to better services, as there is a wider range of treatments available for those with autism condition."

Margaret Rawnsley, research administration officer at Epilepsy Action welcomed the findings.

She said: "We welcome any research that could further our understanding of epilepsy and ultimately improve the lives of those with the condition. This research has the potential to tell us more about the links between epilepsy and other conditions, such as autism spectrum disorders."

Explore further: Mortality rate is increased in persons with autism who also have epilepsy

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5 / 5 (1) May 16, 2013
With raised Autism Awareness in this country especially after the staggering numbers of diagnosed children in the United States over the last few years many of these links will be hinted at in studies. It is exciting to see all the work being done, but of course alot of these studies are in the infant stages of development. I hope this and other studies continue to develop in terms of finding out causes for Autism and other disorders like epilespy.

J. Drewes
Achieve Beyond Pediatric Therapy & Autism Services

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