Epilepsy and autism share common etiology
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Epilepsy and autism may share common etiology, new research suggests
The co-occurrence of autism and epilepsy is well known, with estimated prevalence rates of epilepsy in individuals with autism ranging between 10 to 39%. The prevalence increases with severity of the disorder–more severely affected individuals suffer higher rates of seizures and epilepsy than those with milder forms of autism. The risk of developing seizures also increases with age, with epilepsy first developing or re-emerging during adolescence.
On the other hand, individuals with epilepsy are at increased risk of autism, especially if epilepsy appears in childhood. According to findings from a large nationwide cohort study from Sweden, people with epilepsy are 10 times more likely to develop autism compared to people without epilepsy.
The risk of autism is especially high in the offspring of mothers with epilepsy. Rates of autism are also higher in the siblings of epilepsy sufferers. These results strongly suggest a shared etiology between the two disorders.
“Results of this study suggest that mechanisms involved in producing epilepsy may play a role in producing or augmenting autistic features such as poor social functioning.”
“Given that ASD and epilepsy affect one another’s behavioral phenotype as well as response to psychopharmacological treatment, proper management for epilepsy may in turn reduce autistic symptom severity in these individuals with ASD and epilepsy.”
Ko C, Kim N, Kim E, et al. (2016) The effect of epilepsy on autistic symptom severity assessed by the social responsiveness scale in children with autism spectrum disorder. Behav Brain Funct. Jun 27;12(1):20. doi: 10.1186/s12993-016-0105-0.
Sundelin HE, Larsson H, Lichtenstein P, et al. (2016) Autism and epilepsy: A population-based nationwide cohort study. Neurology. Jul 12;87(2):192-7. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000002836.
Kilincaslan A, Kok BE, Tekturk P, et al. (2016) Beneficial Effects of Everolimus on Autism and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Symptoms in a Group of Patients with Tuberous Sclerosis Complex. J Child Adolesc Psychopharmacol. Oct 31. doi: 10.1089/cap.2016.0100.