Autism and social cognition in epilepsy: implications for comprehensive epilepsy care

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Abstract

Purpose of review

The association of epilepsy, autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and social cognition is now well recognized. The overlap of these disorders is generating increasing scientific and clinical interest as the comprehensive management of epilepsy has expanded to include the cognitive and social consequences commonly being recognized as an integral part of epilepsy disorders.

Recent findings

Recent studies have shown that in individuals with ASD and intellectual disability the rate of epilepsy is as high as 20%. In those with ASD and no intellectual disability the rates of epilepsy are approximately 8%. In epilepsy those most likely to have ASD are those with intellectual disability. There is limited information regarding how often ASD impacts epilepsy and less data on the effect of epilepsy on social cognition. There is a convergence of evidence that when epilepsy coexists with ASD and intellectual disability they share etiopathogenic mechanisms.

Summary

There is a significant and important overlap between epilepsy and ASD and this has important implications for comprehensive care of all individuals with epilepsy. Early recognition of social deficits is essential. Treating the seizures in individuals with epilepsy and ASD is not enough. Clinicians need to be aware of and implement interventions that address the social-cognitive deficits.

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