, Volume 13, Issue 4, pp 209-213

Not EEG abnormalities but epilepsy is associated with autistic regression and mental functioning in childhood autism

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The aim of the study was to investigate the potential association of epilepsy and EEG abnormalities with autistic regression and mental retardation. We examined a group of 77 autistic children (61 boys, 16 girls) with an average age of 9.1 ± 5.3 years. Clinical interview, neurological examination focused on the evaluation of epilepsy, IQ testing, and 21-channel EEG (including night sleep EEG recording) were performed. Normal EEGs were observed in 44.4% of the patients, non-epileptiform abnormal EEGs in 17.5%, and abnormal EEGs with epileptiform discharges in 38.1% of the patients. Epilepsy was found in 22.1% of the subjects. A history of regression was reported in 25.8% of the patients, 54.8% of the sample had abnormal development during the first year of life, and 79.7% of the patients were mentally retarded. Autistic regression was significantly more frequent in patients with epilepsy than in non-epileptic patients (p = 0.003). Abnormal development during the first year of life was significantly associated with epileptiform EEG abnormalities (p = 0.014). Epilepsy correlated significantly with mental retardation (p = 0.001). Although the biological basis and possible causal relationships of these associations remain to be explained, they may point to different subgroups of patients with autistic spectrum disorders.