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Seizures in Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is associated with a high rate of seizures and epilepsy. Some estimates suggest that up to 45% of individuals with ASD are affected by seizures by the time they reach adulthood, and it is estimated that up to 60% have subclinical electrical dis-charge—many without any obvious clinical seizures. In this article, we review some of the more important basic facts about seizures and epilepsy as well as treatments in order to enhance the understanding of caretakers of individuals with ASD.
Seizures: What are they and Why are they Important?
The brain works by transmitting electrical impulses from nerve cell to nerve cell. When the brain is working correctly the local rhythm of one part of the brain is rather random since many different nerve cells are working with other nerve cells on different thoughts and sensations. There is also an electrical rhythm, known as the background rhythm, which orchestrates all of the overall higher brain’s activity like a conductor. When a seizure occurs, there is an abrupt change in the brain’s electrical rhythm, such that the neurons in the brain become abnormally synchronized. When this happens, the nerve cells become enslaved to this abnormal rhythm preventing them from functioning normally. This disturbance in the electrical rhythm of the brain primarily
affects the evolutionarily newer part of the brain known as the cerebral cortex (higher brain). This abnormal brain activity typically shows up as abnormal rhythmic movements of the arms, legs and / or face, which reflect this synchronous rhythm stimulating nerve cells responsible for controlling the limbs.
Sometimes these movements are associated with a loss of consciousness since the nerve cells in the brain cannot function normally.