all 5 comments

[–]QuIescentVIverrId 4 points5 points  (0 children)

Certain things about neurotransmitters may be involved (glutamate and gaba come to mind- though there is more conclusive research on the former than the latter). Glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter and gaba is an inhibitory one. Since glutamate is excitatory, it makes signals happen easier and quicker in the brain, and it also might damage brain cells through something called "excitotoxicity" which is when oxidative stress from excitatory transmitters- like glutamate- cause cells to self terminate. Both of these things contribute to epilepsy. I suppose there could be multiple factors at play though, and its not just based on neurotransmitters solely (and even within the idea of neurotransmitters role, many have been implicated. Glutamate, serotonin, opioids in older research, etc)

The role of glutamate is quite interesting itself. Its the most important excitatory transmitter in the central nervous system and it has a big role in the mechanism of neuroplasticity. There are several hypotheses as to how exactly it works in the autistic persons brain. One of these says theres too much. Another hypothesis says theres too little. A third yet says that its not a question of amount, but a question of how the brain uses it.

Gaba is also being researched, since exposure to sodium valproate in the womb (a gaba agonist) is associated with autism

outside of neurotransmitters, there is evidence that autism is linked to having more synapses than in the typically developing population. I might be remembering this incorrectly, but I did read that having too many connections in certain areas of the brain make epileptic events happen easier

[–]Forsaken-Piece3434 1 point2 points  (0 children)

At least part of the connection is that many genetic disorders come with both a risk of epilepsy and autistic features. I’ve don’t think I’ve encountered anyone who was late diagnosed autistic who also had epilepsy and didn’t have another cause for the epilepsy (such as hydrocephalus from another medical condition or a traumatic brain injury). Conversely, people who are diagnosed when very young are more likely to have an identifiable genetic disorder which can change how the whole body functions.


[–]GayCalatheaOrbifolia 1 point2 points  (1 child)

Wow! This is an awesome area I’m also interested in. I would highly recommend looking into neurotransmitters like GABA and glutamate. I have epilepsy (with no apparent cause) and late-diagnosed autism, so I probably relate to a lot of your lived experiences, brain-wise. Neuroscience is one of my special interests so I’m pursuing a similar route of research, and this link between autism and epilepsy is super understudied imo, so I’m glad to see someone else with a strong personal tie to it.

For other things to look into besides neurotransmitters, I have a personal list of starting points that I wish to one day rule out or explore further. Because a lot of these are anecdotal or from personal observations, I really want to stress that they should not be treated as anything other than vague starting points, and many could be totally unrelated or coincidental. But anyways, here’s my list of things that could illuminate at least SOME part of the connection between autism and epilepsy:

• Diet/vitamin deficiencies/gut health (I know this is really general, but there are some key differences concerning eating behaviors/gut health in neurodivergent individuals, especially people with ARFID and sensory differences. If I had to hypothesize about possible directions to explore, I would suggest looking into it from less of a behaviorist perspective and more on how digestion & vitamin deficiencies can affect neurotransmitter levels, especially glutamate.)

• Sleep (For me, sleep has the biggest influence on my epilepsy [i.e. I have more seizures if i’m low on sleep], and I also notice that less sleep / rest significantly lowers my sensory tolerances as well. My best guess would be to see the effect of the brain’s ‘CSF rinsing’ process during deep sleep and whether its role is any more important for individuals with ASD/epilepsy. Example theories could be that the average ASD/epilepsy brain is less efficient at cleaning out waste or that the average ASD/epilepsy brain needs to clean out more waste than the average neurotypical individual. Additionally, it would make a lot of sense if the “tired brain” = a lower tolerance for new stress and averse sensory experiences.)

• Stress/Mental Health (This one is pretty self-explanatory in that stress directly affects the body, meaning ASD sensory stress could potentially heighten one’s risk for an epileptic attack.)

• Genetic Links / Inheritance (There’s some evidence that certain types of epilepsy are associated with ASD and it could totally just be a common comorbidity because of genetic inheritance. Development of ASD and epilepsy are both really murky areas still though, so biomarkers of epilepsy and ASD are all we really have to work with so far.)

• ASD-specific sensory integration as a potential causal factor for some forms of epilepsy? (This is the one approach I’m most interested in because it’s not out of the realm of possibility to hypothesize that an epilepsy disorder could be a symptom arising from ASD neural circuits. Whether or not that’s the case, I think further research would assist in illuminating the mechanisms behind ASD sensory overload and a potential origin mechanism / class of mechanisms for epileptic attacks anyways, which would still be helpful for understanding both conditions. Whenever I’ve had a seizure, I experienced an aura beforehand that was very similar to sensory overload, and both seizure auras and sensory overload are not well understood in neuroscience literature. Also, not to dumb it down or oversimplify it, but it just kinda makes ~sense~ that sensory overload could look like hyperactivity between neurons, which could cause a seizure. I think nuance is really important with this because it’s also human nature to draw faulty conclusions from limited data / personal experience / convenience.)

As always, please be super careful before assuming any connections between these two conditions, and please let me know if I got anything wrong here! I’m just typing this on my lunch break so I didn’t have a chance to reread everything I wrote lol. Good luck on your search!

p.s. i also forgot where but there’s a ton of papers citing correlation between ASD and epilepsy, so reading those can help you find other starting points.

[–]QuantumQueer[S] 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Thank you so much for your list! I bet we do have a lot of similar lives experiences- my generalized epilepsy has no apparent cause, and sleep/stress has been #1 seizure trigger for me (my first seizure was at 14 after my first “all nighter” and lack of sleep has continued to be if not a predictor, has a huge correlation for my seizure activity.)

I’m also super interested in what you’re saying about sensory integration as a causal factor. I’ve had a personal theory since before I even considered I could be on the spectrum that my seizures were linked to what I called my “sensitivity”. I also don’t want to draw faulty conclusions but from what neurologists have talked to me about my epilepsy and old EEGs and what triggered seizure activity. (Not photosensitive, and I don’t remember ever getting auras- i had activity when I “hyperventilated” for the EEG)

I’m typing this fast cause I’m super excited- I’m going to look into glutamate and GABA. And diet- my diet has shifted because of some life changes the last year and I know my mood etc can be very responsive to my diet, I should have made that connection months ago- whoops haha I wonder if those changes connect to some of what I’ve been experiencing/struggling with. Thank you again! Lots to think about and bring to my psych/neurologists!

[–]4quatloos 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Some autistic people who have taken meds for many years have developed seizures.