New research from Sun et al. (2018) has discovered a link between seizures early in development and autism. Notably, these seizures occur during a critical period for the primary auditory cortex, a section of the brain important to language development. It is hypothesized that these seizures disrupt the brain’s development, preventing typical language formation, and since these seizures are occurring during a critical period, this language does not develop unless acted upon (Sun et al., 2018). Fortunately, Sun et al. (2018) found that acting upon the auditory cortex with activity dependent AMPA receptor (AMPAR) following the seizure but before the critical period allowed the brain to develop as expected, suggesting there is a remedy for these seizures if identified early enough.
This study does well in identifying the co-morbid diagnoses of autism or intellectual disabilities and epilepsy or other seizure disorders. By recognizing this correlation, the team was able to recognize the possible connection between seizures interfering with the critical periods of neurodevelopment. With this new research, autism and intellectual disability may become signficnatly less prevalent, however, research will need to continue developing the knowledgebase to assure this outcome. Most notably, it will be important to help determine how best to identify these seizures prior to the critical period. Additionally, research will need to find if other factors contribute to the presentation of autism and intellectual disability to continue our understanding of these causative factors and how they contribute to the development of these disorders.
Sun, H., Takesian, A.E., Wang, T.T., Lippman-Bell, J.J., Hensch, T.K., Jensen, F.E. (2018). Early seizures prematurely unsilence auditory synapses to disrupt thalamocortical critical period plasticity. Cell Reports, 23 (9), 2533. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2018.04.108
Michael Daniel, MA, LPA (temp)
WKPIC Doctoral Intern