Study finds girls with mild autism susceptible to treatment-resistant epilepsy

MRI Scan and little boy, 3dNew York — In a study published in the June issue of Autism Research, researchers at the New York University observed that girls with mild autism are susceptible to what scientists call ‘treatment-resistant’ epilepsy.

It has long been observed by researchers that girls appear less likely to develop autism than boys, and that a significant number of individuals with autism also suffer from epilepsy.

But the latest research on the subject matter concluded that although girls are less likely to develop autism, it is found that when they do, they are more likely to suffer from epilepsy— and that they tend to develop a treatment-resistant variant of the neurological disorder.

The scientists also observed that girls with autism who suffer from the neurological disorder mostly have milder forms of autism.

The study involved 125 individuals with autism aged 2 to 35 years old who were seeking treatment for epilepsy— 97 of whom were male, and 28 were female. The scientists found that only about 24 percent of the male subjects were resistant to two types of epilepsy drugs, while 46 percent of the female ones were unresponsive to the same drugs.

After the participants underwent magnetic resonance imaging scan (MRI), the scientists observed that the female subjects— all of whom with autism and had epilepsy— were prone to have cortical dysplasia, an abnormality in the brain region wherein some neurons located in the top layer fail to migrate to the place where they are supposed to be.

The male subjects showed no evidence of this abnormality.

The researchers hope to conduct another study to find whether chronic dysplasia has any relation to the female subjects’ treatment-resistant epilepsy.

The research, which was spearheaded by New York University Assistant Professor of Neurology Karen Blackmon, sheds new light on the long-suspected relationship between autism and epilepsy. According to University of California – Davis Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Christine Nordahl:

“We know very little about the subgroup of individuals with [both] autism and epilepsy.”

“This study is a great first step in exploring sex differences in this subgroup.”

Source: Jessica Wright in Girls with mild autism prone to severe epilepsy 
Autism Research Treatment Resistant Epilepsy in Autism Spectrum Disorder: Increased Risk for Females.