AUTISM and EPILEPSY: what is the link between the 2 diseases?

Epilepsy and autism spectrum disorders, or ASD, present a remarkable degree of comorbidity and may share similar pathological mechanisms. But how are epilepsy and autism related? Does autism cause an increase in epilepsy? Or does epilepsy alter the brain circuit, which then promotes the development of autism? Scientists at the University of California, Riverside, and Rutgers University (New Jersey) are providing the first answers to these questions, with this study conducted in animals.

“One hypothesis is that during brain development inhibitory neurons, which regulate brain rhythms, develop abnormally, the way in which the brain circuit sets in is then abnormal, which can lead to both autism and epilepsy, ”suggests lead author Dr. Viji Santhakumar, associate professor of molecular, cellular and systems biology at the University of California at Riverside.

The key role of inhibitory neurons

The researchers focused on the function of inhibitory neurons in mice. These inhibitory neurons function as a brake by suppressing and regulating the activity of downstream neurons. The researchers generated mice with an overall mutation in all cells that prevents inhibitory neurons from migrating to their normal location in mature brain circuitry. The researchers find:

  • unsurprisingly, a reduction in inhibitory currents in the hippocampus, which plays a key role in memory;
  • these mice experience a high incidence of behavioral traits associated with ASD and seizures;
  • fewer inhibitory neurons in brain circuits seem to induce an abnormality in the development of inhibitory neural circuits.

In summary, the study suggests that a common underlying defect in the formation of inhibitory circuits could contribute to both ASD and epilepsy and provide a basis for further research. The objective would therefore be to identify the mutations underlying the abnormalities of inhibitory neuronal migration and the maintenance of neuronal connections, in the development of ASDs and epilepsy.

Preparing for Christmas: autism resources

The Christmas period, with lots of change, social interaction, expectations and demands to negotiate, can be a very exciting but often stressful time of the year for many autistic people. We have put together a brief list of useful resources that we hope may prove helpful in making this festive period as special and as stress free as possible for those you work with. N.B. Most of the resources were written before Covid-19. Although many of the tips will still be relevant, some may not. Here are are a variety of resources that give guidance, advice and ideas for the festive season: Preparing for Christmas – National Autistic Society Our website features a range of advice on preparing for Christmas, including some real-life stories and tips from autistic people and their families. Preparing for the festive period – Scottish Autism Includes some advice on preparing for a post-Covid 19 Christmas, as well as some information on how to approach the period after Christmas and the New Year. Autism and Christmas – Teachers are you ready? – Lynn McCann In this blog Lynn McCann offers some advice to teachers on how to support their autistic pupils in the weeks leading […]

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What AI tells us about communicating with children

How many interactions do you have with the pupils in your care throughout the day? A seminal study estimated that the number of words, nods, smiles and other gestures that teachers typically use to communicate with their students in any given hour in a mainstream classroom is in the range of 200 to 300 (Jackson, 1969). Research shows that the way teachers communicate with their pupils makes a huge difference to how well they learn (Stronge, 2011). We know that this is even more important for children who are neurodiverse. But which communication techniques work the best? Our research , published this September, helps to answer this question. We used artificial intelligence to identify effective communication strategies for children with autism. It might sound complicated, but it wasn’t really: we recorded interactions between teachers and autistic students in the classroom, and then used AI to identify which teacher communications worked and which did not. More: We spent 20 half-days in a special school in London that had criteria of autism spectrum condition for admission. There, we observed which strategies three teachers used to communicate with seven children – words, visual images, objects, gestures or physical prompts – and we […]

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Reversing mutations in top autism-linked gene makes adult mice more social

Treatments that counteract the effects of a mutation in a top autism-linked gene in mice increase the animals’ sociability in adulthood, according to a new unpublished study. Researchers presented the findings virtually at the 2021 Society for Neuroscience annual meeting . The results are based on mice deficient in SCN2A , a gene that codes for an ion channel protein that ferries electrical signals across the brain. Mutations in the gene are strongly linked to autism and often cause epilepsy . Mice missing both copies of SCN2A typically don’t survive long after birth, whereas those that lack only one copy show few behavioral differences from control mice, according to previous work. So to create a useful model for the new study, researchers used a ‘gene trap,’ a snippet of DNA that alters gene expression. Mice engineered with the gene trap express about 25 percent of typical SCN2A levels. The trap also made it possible for the researchers to later reinstate typical expression levels of the gene in adult mice and alter their behavior. Social alterations : Unlike control mice with two working copies of the gene, the SCN2A model mice preferred to spend time in an empty chamber instead […]

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Surfside Beach to receive autism supportive designation

FILE SURFSIDE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — Surfside Beach town employees will all be participating in a certification training, allowing them to better communicate with and serve families of autism. Proclaiming The Town as an Autism Friendly Destination in January 2016, Surfside Beach has continually supported the Champion Autism Network (CAN) and the families it serves. “This training is packed with good information anyone can use to expand their own Autism awareness,” Robert Blomquist, Surfside Beach Public Information Officer said. “As an autism-friendly destination, it’s important that the Town of Surfside Beach take the lead in understanding how to best serve families with Autism.” Becky Large, CAN Executive Director said, “we are so grateful and excited by the continued support of The Town of Surfside Beach. Our Network continues to grow and serve our people because of the community support we receive. Hooray and thank you Surfside Beach.” To learn more, go to or Champion Autism Network on Facebook .

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Average wait time for autism diagnosis in Colorado is three years; non-profit working to shorten that significantly

Firefly Autism (Firefly Autism) COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) – The average wait time for an autism diagnosis in Colorado is reportedly three years. One Colorado non-profit is working to shorten that signficantly. 11 News spoke with Firefly Autism , a non-profit organization with campuses located in Colorado Springs and Denver. Firefly Autism has a three-step process for diagnosis including interviews, evaluations, and more, with a wait time of approximately 2 weeks. “When thinking about early intervention and the importance of early intervention, we want to get this diagnosis done as early as possible and if a kiddo is four years old, and they’re on a wait list for two years, they are missing vital periods of their development,” said Dr. Tanner Simpson of Firefly Autism. According to Firefly Autism, it specializes in the comprehensive psychological testing and evaluation for toddlers, children, adolescents, and adults experiencing a variety of developmental behavioral, and learning differences. This includes challenges associated with developmental delays, intellectual, learning, and other developmental disabilities, such as autism spectrum disorders. Firefly Autism also does home-based services for adults. “These individuals we’re working with provide so much to society and they can offer so much to the community and […]

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Earlier autism diagnosis associated with greater trait improvement

Children who are diagnosed with autism before 2 and a half years of age show greater gains in their social skills , on average, than children who are diagnosed later, according to a new study. Early diagnosis is widely thought to be important because it makes it possible to treat children early, yet there has been little evidence that early treatment benefits autistic children, says lead investigator Ilan Dinstein , associate professor of cognitive and brain sciences at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheba, Israel. Autistic children who receive early intervention as part of a clinical trial often display promising gains, but those treated in community settings do not typically experience as many benefits , previous studies show. This gap raised a burning question for Dinstein and his colleagues: “Is there a reason to hurry and perform the diagnosis early in situations where intervention is messy, heterogeneous and not delivered by world-renowned experts?” he says. The answer, according to the results Dinstein and his colleagues published in October in Autism , appears to be yes. “I hope that these and related findings will put continued pressure on advisory bodies that produce guidelines, and also on insurers to push […]

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What is autism and what are the symptoms in children?

AUTISM spectrum disorder is a condition which can affect a person’s communication skills and their ability to socialise. It affects about one per cent of the population, but how can you tell if your child might be showing signs of autism? Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is three to four times more common in boys than in girls (stock image) Here’s all you need to know about people with ASD, the signs and symptoms and what support is available in the UK. What is autism? Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is an incurable, lifelong developmental condition that affects how people perceive the world and interact with others. It affects around one in 100 people in the UK and is three to four times more common in boys than in girls. Many people with ASD find it hard to understand other people’s feelings and emotions, and they may have difficulty holding conversations. When they are young, their language development may take longer and they can struggle to use facial expressions, using gestures to communicate instead. They may also find it hard to connect with other people and to hold eye contact with unfamiliar individuals. Many children with ASD like to follow a […]

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The impact of noise and soundscape on children with autism in schools

Health Wellbeing and Sustainable Buildings MSc student Alex Mason reviews the impacts of noise and soundscape for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder in schools, including design recommendations. It is estimated that for every 100 children in the UK, at least one will be diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). With approximately 71% of these children educated within mainstream schools (1), it is essential that we design inclusive schools as standard to meet the needs of every child requiring education. William Melnick defined ‘noise’ as “the unpleasant sounds which distract the human being physically and physiologically”. Research states that younger children are much more susceptible to poor acoustic conditions than adults, with children in their primary school years experiencing greater detrimental effects of noise and reverberation (2). Noise does not affect all children equally and pupils with autism are often very sensitive to specific types of noise (3). Whilst some children may not be disturbed by a specific noise source, children with autism would cover their ears because the same level of noise is so painful (3). Short-term management of these issues has seen children using ear defenders to avoid distress, something which should not be required in a school […]

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‘You changed the world tonight’: Fans and celebrities praise Paddy McGuinness’s autism documentary

Christine and Paddy McGuinness (Shutterstock) Fans and celebrities have been thanking Paddy and Christine McGuinness for their documentary about autism . The TV presenter and his wife released the programme, Paddy and Christine McGuinness: Our Family and Autism, last night (1 December), detailing their experience of having three neurodiverse children: eight-year-old twins Leo and Penelope, and five-year-old Felicity. The film followed the couple over months as they tried to gain a greater understanding of autism, meeting other parents, experts and people on the autism spectrum. Many viewers praised the documentary on Twitter, including the actor and comedian Johnny Vegas , who wrote: “What a beautiful, open, informative and emotive documentary currently showing on @BBCOne discussing #autism in our children. Thank you to @PaddyMcGuinness, family and other contributors for sharing and opening up such an important topic for conversation.” Former Countdown star Carol Vorderman added: “This was a most beautiful and honest and raw documentary. Congratulations @PaddyMcGuinness and Christine, and Paul Scholes for your story about your wonderful son. ‘Our Family and Autism’ .. if you didn’t see it , then please watch on @BBCiPlayer.” A raw and intimate look inside the lives of @PaddyMcGuinness , his wife Christine and […]

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