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