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Rev Neurol. 2008;46 Suppl 1:S71-7.

[Autism, epilepsy and genetics].

[Article in Spanish]

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  • 1Unidad de Neuropediatría, Servicio de Pediatría, Hospital del Mar, Barcelona.



The rate of epilepsy in autism is higher than in other developmental disorders and estimates point to a frequency range of between 7% and 42%. Between 40% and 47% of autistic children suffer from clinical epilepsy. Onset of epilepsy may occur at any age.


During the ontogenesis of the nervous system, if the maturing process is upset by some epileptogenic phenomenon, the consequences on the consolidation of the emerging cognitive functions can be severe. Epileptiform discharges can occur although clinical seizures are absent, but nevertheless they still have an effect on the maturing process. Between 10% and 50% of autistic children undergo a regression of acquired behaviour following a period of normal development. The absence of clinical seizures during regression does not rule out the epileptogenic origin of the regressive process.


The relation between pervasive developmental disorders and epilepsy, epileptiform activity and subclinical seizures can be explained from a neurobiological point of view, on the one hand, by an imbalance between the excitatory system -glutamate- and the inhibitory system -gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)- in key points in the cerebral cortex and, on the other, by means of molecular genetic studies and studies of candidate genes (FOXP2, WNT2, subunits of GABA receptors, neuroligins, ARX, SCN1A, SCN2A, MECP2, CDKL5 and DLX5).

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