Autism, Epilepsy, Brain Region Connectivity & Sz-Style Thinking

A relatively functional colleague who suffers from epilepsy and pretty severe anxiety, as well as schizoid and (under stress) mild to moderate schizotypal thinking, told me that a relative had suggested that my colleague might be suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome (a type of autism).

This morning in my emial, I ran into the last of the articles summarized below, and found it so intriguing with regards to both sz and autism that I started drilling down into earlier research. What I found was edifying regarding my own psychopatholgy, as well as issues that might be of interest to some here on this forum… especially if anti-epileptic-seizure meds might be used to treat these problems.

Date: November 7, 2013

Source: Cell Press


The brains of children with autism show more connections than the brains of typically developing children do. What’s more, the brains of individuals with the most severe social symptoms are also the most hyper-connected. The findings reported in two independent studies are challenge the prevailing notion in the field that autistic brains are lacking in neural connections.

“Our findings suggest that the imbalance of excitation and inhibition in the local brain circuits could engender cognitive and behavioral deficits observed in autism,” Menon said. That imbalance is a hallmark of epilepsy as well, which might explain why children with autism so often suffer with epilepsy too.

“Drawing from these observations, it might not be too far fetched to speculate that the existing drugs used to treat epilepsy may be potentially useful in treating autism,” Supekar said.

Keown et al. Local functional overconnectivity in posterior brain regions is associated with symptom severity in autism spectrum disorders. Cell Reports, November 2013
Kaustubh Supekar, Lucina Q. Uddin, Amirah Khouzam, Jennifer Phillips, William D. Gaillard, Lauren E. Kenworthy, Benjamin E. Yerys, Chandan J. Vaidya, Vinod Menon.Brain Hyperconnectivity in Children with Autism and its Links to Social Deficits. Cell Reports, 2013; DOI:10.1016/j.celrep.2013.10.001

Date: April 16, 2014

Source: The JAMA Network Journals


Autism spectrum disorder in adolescents appears to be associated with atypical connectivity in the brain involving the systems that help people infer what others are thinking and understand the meaning of others’ actions and emotions [theory of mind]. The ability to navigate and thrive in complex social systems is commonly impaired in ASD, a neurodevelopmental disorder affecting as many as 1 in 88 children.

Compared to typically developing adolescents, those with ASD showed both over- and under-connectivity in the ToM [theory of mind] network, which was associated with greater social impairment. The adolescents with ASD also had increased connectivity between the regions of the MNS [mirror neuron system] and ToM, suggesting that ToM-MNS “cross talk” might be associated with social impairment.

Inna Fishman, Christopher L. Keown, Alan J. Lincoln, Jaime A. Pineda, Ralph-Axel Müller. Atypical Cross Talk Between Mentalizing and Mirror Neuron Networks in Autism Spectrum Disorder. JAMA Psychiatry, 2014; DOI:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2014.83

Date: March 20, 2015

Source: University of Warwick


The functional differences between autistic and non-autistic brains have been isolated for the first time, following the development of a new methodology for analysing MRI scans.

“We identified in the autistic model a key system in the temporal lobe visual cortex with reduced cortical functional connectivity. This region is involved with the face expression processing involved in social behaviour. This key system has reduced functional connectivity with the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, which is implicated in emotion and social communication.”

The researchers also identified in autism a second key system relating to reduced cortical functional connectivity, a part of the parietal lobe implicated in spatial functions.

They propose that these two types of functionality, face expression-related, and of one’s self and the environment, are important components of the computations involved in theory of mind, whether of oneself or of others,

Wei Cheng , Edmund T. Rolls , Huaguang Gu , Jie Zhang , Jianfeng Feng. Autism: reduced connectivity between cortical areas involved in face expression, theory of mind, and the sense of self. Brain, 2015 DOI:10.1093/brain/awv051

Date: March 26, 2015

Source: University of Miami


Individuals with autism spectrum disorder exhibit different patterns of brain connectivity when compared to typically developing individuals, scientists report, and those patterns adjust as the individual ages, research shows.

Key findings of the study include:

  • Children (7 to 11) with ASD, exhibit hyper-connectivity within large-scale brain networks, as well as decreased between-network connectivity, when compared to TD [typical] children.

  • Adolescents (age 11 to 18) with ASD do not differ in within-network connectivity, but have a decrease in-between network connectivity, from TD [typical] adolescents.

  • Adults (older than 18) with ASD show neither within-, or between-network differences in functional connectivity compared with typical adults.

Jason S. Nomia, Lucina Q. Uddina. Developmental changes in large-scale network connectivity in autism. NeuroImage: Clinical, March 2015

Date: November 19, 2015

Source: Carnegie Mellon University


A crucial difference in the way learning occurs in the brains of adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has been identified by scientists. They have examined how the brains of typical and ASD individuals gradually became adapted to visual patterns they were learning, without awareness of the pattern [a typical symptom of schizophrenia], or implicit learning.

…brain activation of ASD individuals was slower to become familiar with the pattern they repeatedly saw, meaning their brains failed to register the “oldness” of the patterns to the same degree that the control participants did. The brains of the control participants kept decreasing their level of activation with repeated exposures to the patterns being learned – showing adaptation – whereas the decreases in the brain of participants with ASD were significantly smaller.

They also found that the severity of an individual’s autism symptoms correlated with the brain’s degree of adaptation to the patterns.

The implicit learning exercise was specifically designed to engage both the frontal and posterior regions of the brain, and the results showed that brain synchronization between these regions was lower in ASD.

Sarah E. Schipul, Marcel Adam Just. Diminished neural adaptation during implicit learning in autism. NeuroImage, 2016; 125: 332 DOI:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2015.10.039

Comments? Questions? Harsh vituperative?

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Biggest word I got out of all that was pattern.

Which is one very big word in the symptoms of sz when you add a second word to it and make it “pattern recognition.” Because sz pts tend to “recognize” (actually project) patterns where there really aren’t any… and fail to recognize patterns that actually do exist.

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Patterns that do exist like?

Which patterns is it that SZ pts project that aren’t there?

Anyway, who’s to say that SZ don’t see the pattern?

This bias can go both ways.

That sz pts tend not to see: Cause-and-effect relationships between irrational, beliefs unsupported by verifiable, physical evidence… and their emotions and behaviors.

Reciprocal reactivity. That others mean to hurt or abandon them when others really don’t (but may have to because the sz pts make it so difficult not to).

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