Autism and epilepsy: a retrospective follow-up study

Brain Dev. 2007 Sep;29(8):486-90. doi: 10.1016/j.braindev.2006.12.012. Epub 2007 Feb 26.


So-called "idiopathic" autism, which exhibited no major complications before diagnosis is well-known as one of the risk factors for epilepsy. This retrospective follow-up study aimed to clarify the characteristics of epilepsy in the autism; onset of seizure, seizure types, EEG findings and epilepsy outcome and the differences as a group between the autism with epilepsy and those without epilepsy. One hundred thirty individuals with autistic disorder or atypical autism diagnosed in childhood were followed up over 10 years and were evaluated almost every year up to 18-35 years of age. Their medical records related to perinatal conditions, IQ, social maturity scores and several factors of epilepsy were reviewed in October 2005. Thirty-three of the follow-up group (25%) exhibited epileptic seizures. The onset of epilepsy was distributed from 8 to 26 years of age. Two types of seizure were observed; partial seizure with secondarily generalized seizure and generalized seizure. Twenty of the epileptics (61%) showed the partial seizure. Although 18% of the non-epileptic group exhibited epileptic discharges on EEG, 68% of the epileptic group revealed epileptiform EEG findings before the onset of epilepsy. No differences were observed concerning the sex ratio, autistic disorder/atypical autism and past history of febrile seizures between the epileptic and non-epileptic groups. Lower IQ, lower social maturity score and higher frequency of prescribed psychotropics were observed in the epileptic group compared to the non-epileptics. Idiopathic autism was confirmed as the high risk factor for epilepsy. Epileptiform EEG findings predict subsequent onset of epileptic seizures in adolescence. Epilepsy is one of negative factors on cognitive, adaptive and behavioral/emotional outcomes for individuals with autism.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age of Onset
  • Autistic Disorder / complications*
  • Autistic Disorder / physiopathology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Electroencephalography
  • Epilepsy / complications*
  • Epilepsy / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors