When someone has an epileptic seizure, the episode affects the brain’s social function, which is a known factor of autism. Research has previously suggested the possibility of an association between autism and epilepsy, but Dr. SallyAnn Wakeford and colleagues at the University of Bath discovered a link for the first time.
Dr. Wakeford conducted several studies looking at people with epilepsy to see if they display traits of autism. She found this hypothesis to be true, especially in adults with epilepsy, and especially in those who have temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE). Someone with temporal lobe epilepsy may display autistic traits more than others because anti-epileptic drugs are less effective for this kind.
Like autism, there is a social and cultural stigma about epilepsy, resulting to the social traits of those with epilepsy going unnoticed for a while. Dr. Wakeford explains,
“This new research links social difficulties to a deficit in somatic markers in the brain, explaining these characteristics in adults with epilepsy…It is unknown whether these adults had a typical developmental period during childhood or whether they were predisposed to having autistic traits before the onset of their epilepsy…However what is known is that the social components of autistic characteristics in adults with epilepsy may be explained by social cognitive differences, which have largely been unrecognized until now.”[i]
Further research needs to be done to support these findings, but eventually the treatment for people with epilepsy and autism can be greatly improved. The findings are already being noticed and welcomed by Margaret Rawnsley, research administration officer at Epilepsy Action.
[i] “Daily Mail” Scientists discover a link between epilepsy and autism for the first time. 16 May 2013. Web. < http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2325088/Scientists-discover-link-epilepsy-autism-time.html>