In the United States, over two million people have had an unprovoked seizure or have received the diagnosis of epilepsy, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. With epilepsy, patients have disrupted electrical activity in their brains.
Another disorder that starts in childhood is autism. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke noted that out of every 1,000 children, three to six of them will have an autism spectrum disorder. With autism spectrum disorders, patients have impairments with social interaction, repetitive behaviors and problems with communication. The severity of autism spectrum disorders can range from mild with Asperger's syndrome to severe with autism, also called classical autism spectrum disorder.
Several studies have looked at the connection between autism and epilepsy, as patients can have both disorders: 10 to 30 percent of patients with autism also have epilepsy, according to Lidia Gabis, John Pomeroy and Mary R. Andriola, authors of “Autism and Epilepsy: Cause, Consequence, Comorbidity or Coincidence?” In their retrospective review of electroencephalography (EEG) data, Gabis, Pomeroy and Andriola looked at 56 children who had pervasive developmental disorders, which is another name for autism spectrum disorders. They found that the prevalence of epilepsy in autistic patients corresponded to previous studies that found that these two conditions are comorbid. The authors also found that that the rate of epilepsy was higher in girls who have epilepsy compared to boys with the disorder.
In a study conducted in Canada at the CHUM Research Centre, researchers found a genetic link between autism and epilepsy. The study found that a mutation of the synapsin gene, SYN1, which was found in patients with both epilepsy and autism.