Link Between Autism and Epilepsy

Investigators at the University of Veracruz (UV), study the neuro-biological connection between the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and epilepsy, in order to understand the cause why the brain of an autistic kid is 20-30 percent more vulnerable to seizures that an infant without this problem.

To know said connection, Angel Alberto Puig Lagunes, a doctoral student in Brain Research of the UV works with two investigational models, one with autism and other of epilepsy because 30 % of autistic individuals may have at some point in their lives some type of epilepsy, particularly during childhood and teenage life.

The study seeks to recognize the variations in the amount of neurotransmitters and receptors that may figure out susceptibility to seizures. “If we know what happens in the brain structures of laboratory rats utilizing these methods, we can develop new insights into the characteristics that sufferers with ASD present that make them more vulnerable to having seizures and may in the future offer new drugs or non-pharmacological interventions treatments for such problem.

The WHO estimates that globally one in 160 kids under 12 years of age has autism. In Mexico, there are more than 45,000 individuals with this disease.

The professional refers that one to 1.5 % of the worldwide population have epilepsy, which is equal to around 50 million individuals. Numerous epidemiological data suggest that between 20 and 35 % of kids with autism have this problem; on the other hand, the neurobiological reasons of such comorbidity are yet unknown.

In response, Puig Lagunes in collaboration with Maria Leonor López-Meraz, Jorge Manzo Denes and Rebeca Toledo Cárdenas evaluate neurochemical modifications that take place in brain structures like as the hippocampus, amygdala, cerebellum and frontal cortex subjected to valproic acid, areas involved in autism and epilepsy.

The investigator examines seizures through drugs like pentylenetetrazol, applied to induce crisis, and valproic acid, an anticonvulsant that is used prenatally to rats, since study has shown that when it is given to a pregnant woman there is higher likelihood that her child is born with ASD or congenital malformations.

With this approach, states Angel Puig, we study if fetuses subjected to the drug are more vulnerable to presenting seizures and can identify, at a neurobiological level, what occurs in the brain of an autistic person.

The outcomes of this study show that like kids with autism, laboratory rats that were prenatally subjected to valproic acid are more susceptible to presenting tonic-chronic seizures, common in individuals with generalized epilepsy.

With this research, Angel Puig won 3rd place at the Annual Congress of the Mexican Chapter of the International League Against Epilepsy (Camelice) carried out in León, Guanajuato, center of Mexico.