Guest Post – Autism And Epilepsy Combined

I would like to thank http://rosewinelover.com/ epilepsy action advocate once again for taking the time to write a guest post.

This month epilepsy me and neurology  has asked me to write a brief (or not-so brief) piece on what it’s like to live with both epilepsy and autism; I shall endeavour to do my best. Continue reading

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very interesting and relavent findings on gene expression and mental health.

deemagclinic

The biggest study yet into genetics and mental health has come up with a stunning result: The five most common mental illnesses — autism, attention deficit disorder, bipolar disease, schizophrenia and major depression — all have a common genetic root.

The finding, published in the journal Lancet on Wednesday, may eventually lead to a complete rewrite of the medical understanding of the causes of mental illness.

“We have been able to discover specific genetic variants that seem to overlap among disorders that we think of as very clinically different,” Dr. Jordan Smoller of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, who led the study, said in a telephone interview.

The study does not explain every case of psychiatric disease, the researchers stress.

“We think this is one tiny fraction of the genetic component of these disorders. They involve hundreds and possibly thousands of genes,” Smoller said.

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The Mystery of the Missed Connection – Review

Agenesis and the Corpus Callosum

Scientific American Mind (1) (2) January/ February 2013 published an interesting article on the ‘Corpus Callosum’ the connective bridge between the two hemispheres of the brain.

This particular article is very interesting as it discusses some of the common links of the area and research into Autism, Epilepsy and schizophrenia to name a few.

Critically, it discusses how neuroplasticity can affect ‘re-wiring’ of the brain if this structure is missing.

Because the corpus callosum is central it has many roles such as motor skills, attention and memory. It joins up the two hemispheres and helps them work together.

Although the article doesn’t discuss how hormones impact on the tissue in the Corpus Callosum it is a very interesting article about neuroplasticity and its implications.

In particular the article features a condition known as Agenesis – see this blog link for one of the contributors (http://agenesiscorpuscallosum.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/acc-mystery-of-missed-connection.html). Of particular interest is the self- advocacy website attached to the blog for families and people with this rare condition see here: http://scenicbeauty.tripod.com/AngelsAroundTheWorld.html

This explains that Agenesis is a rare condition where children are born with out or only a partial corpus callosum.

I have read about the corpus callosum before in relation to Einstein who was dyslexic and had epilepsy. (3)

When the brain of Albert Einstein was cut up, it was discovered that he had a much thicker corpus callosum but other areas of his brain were deficient. (4)

In terms of neurodiversity and neuroplasticity I am very interested in the findings of the article.

As a follow up I had a look for information about hormones and the corpus callosum which was very interesting, as this e-book link (5) discusses findings in relation to difference in connectivity between the sexes and the studies relating to thickness of the corpus callosum caused by sex hormones which appear to have a great impact on the development of this area.

The author light heartedly puts forward the difficulties of studying sex difference and cognitive ability, and some of the problems (I mean arguments) this can cause between scientists.

I thought it was interesting that one piece of research seemed to suggest that the greater thickness of connectivity in the corpus callosum could account for better verbal skill/ connectivity in women! 🙂

1) http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=the-mystery-of-the-missed-connectio

2)http://www.nature.com/scientificamericanmind/journal/v23/n6/full/scientificamericanmind0113-54.html

3) http://www.authorsden.com/visit/viewArticle.asp?id=19984

4)http://recievemore.com/?tag=corpus-callosum

5)http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=2zNNhXqlJP4C&pg=PA199&lpg=PA199&dq=corpus+callosum+hormones&source=bl&ots=7I8iYq-ZMW&sig=r-QeVzRsFhFjs2YpqUI9vAX2x2Q&hl=en&sa=X&ei=VP_4UNnSFISW0QXB3oDwDA&sqi=2&ved=0CGIQ6AEwBw#v=onepage&q=corpus%20callosum%20hormones&f=false

some of you may be interested in making a contribution to this post about ‘abiltiy’ or ‘disability’. I know I am.

The Autistic Voice

Hi Readers

Playing devil’s advocate today…

I recently gave a session on autoethnography and reflexive writing at Sheffield Hallam and I included several examples of autoethnography of my own.  One example was some reflexion I had done during the Paralympics.  Someone suggested I put it in a blog to encourage debate:

‘So the past month has been about planning, and watching the olympics and paralympics, which have really got me thinking about disabilities – in fact it is not about disability but all about ability.  Even the language used is interesting – political correctness talks about people of restricted height for example, but paralympics talk about dwarfism.  Language is much more direct, honest and matter of fact.  Is PC for the benefit of the ‘inflicted’ or is it to make the public feel more empathetic to individuals’ feelings?  Do we worry too much about upsetting people?

One amputee…

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What do Epilepsy, Autism, Hormones, Sleep, Music, Meditation, Exercise have in common? The Hippocampus and Neurogenesis.

This was my first full year of blogging and it has been an enormous learning curve.

Blogging has been an amazing way to connect with other people, read about life experiences, thoughts, emotions and ideas. Thank you to all the bloggers whose work I have read this year. It has been very enriching.

For me, I have been able to express myself in writing, and to say what I am thinking about – which is quite liberating.

Most of all blogging has helped me to make sense of epilepsy.

So, when I was looking back at all the subjects that came up in the last year, I was struck by how although very different subject areas were covered, a number of these topics  could all be knitted together in a ‘holistic’ kind of way via one area of the brain.

The hippocampus.(1)

Architecturally the hippocampus sits within the limbic system (2) fairly centrally inside the brain (towards the brainstem).

This area of the brain is implicated in; mood, memory, learning and spatial awareness. Because of these factors the study of the hippocampus has been important in diseases such as Alzheimer’s and depression.

Relatively recently scientists identified the hippocampus as one of a number of areas in the brain that is capable of neurogenesis into adulthood. (3) Neurogenesis is the ability of the brain to create new neurons.

For this reason the hippocampus crops up in lots of neurological studies.

Within epilepsy for example, some of the factors that aggravate seizure symptoms generally are sleep deprivation and stress. Sleep deprivation and stress negatively affect neurogenesis and there are a number of studies around the relationship with epilepsy and the hippocampus. One study in particular shows; abnormal neurogenesis in the hippocampus of people with epilepsy, increased neurogenesis in people with epilepsy and inhibited neurogenesis in the hippocampus, in particular a study relating to temporal lobe epilepsy (4). All of these problems can impact on mood, depression, memory and learning in epilepsy.

Having found information that epilepsy and autism can be linked I started exploring this area more and even found people advocating for both such as Epilepsy Action’s Advocate blog (5).

Within autism, the hippocampus is mentioned in studies relating to the importance of autism and working memory. (6) The reason I was looking at this relationship is because one of my friends who is on the autistic spectrum benefits highly from martial arts training. I read an article ages ago in ‘Martial Arts Illustrated’ magazine  about ‘Sandra Jane Beale Ellis’(7) who has autism and has spent her life helping people with autism to train in Karate (8). Recently someone posted a blog about how kung fu and tai chi training help people with autism. (9) These studies reminded me how much tai chi training helped me with seizures and how much my memory, concentration, co-ordination and overall health was improved by tai chi and karate training. Some studies of autism indicate that an enriched learning environment from a young age in autism can be beneficial to promote neurogeneisis (10).

Hormones such as cortisol negatively effects neurogenesis within the hippocampus (11) cortisol is elevated by stress. Studies relating to oestrogen show there may be some impact of this hormone within the hippocampus and co-ordination (12) I found this research interesting because of problems I have around oestrogen and progesterone and seizure control. Melatonin (13) studies within the hippocampus indicate that melatonin may have neuroprotective qualities and indeed other bloggers with epilepsy have said that they find melatonin supplementation to be beneficial (14).

This leads onto Sleep deprivation negatively influences or reduces neurogenesis within the hippocampus (15). I am quite interested in the importance of sleep in relation to this area of the brain, because it crops up a lot in my personal experience of managing seizures. Reading about Jill Taylor Bolt stroke insight caused me to think about how sleep influences the brain and why. The asdresearchinitiative also shows a study of how sleep pattern problems impact on autism. (16) During sleep the brain goes through a process of ‘pruning’ neurons, this process also happens at different times in life. (17) (18)

Music came up more recently in relation to the ‘Mozart effect ’ in classical music (19). Studies of the hippocampus in music show how the hippocampus is implicated in long term memory and stringing together music in the brain. The music of Mozart in particular has been used to train mice to carry out spatial tasks in mazes, and one theory is that music may activate the same pathways as spatial awareness in the brain. (20) Music can cause emotional responses and I was interested how the hippocampus is located in the emotional brain or limbic system.

Within meditation, Studies into meditation have shown that meditation influences neuroplasticity and neurogenesis positively within the hippocampus. (21)

Exercise studies show that exercise promotes neurogenesis within the hippocampus. (22) In relation to exercise and mental health exercise has been shown to have a positive influence on mental health and some studies show that this positively influences the hippocampus. (23) This could explain why life systems such as yoga or tai chi which incorporate meditation as well as exercise are very good for the mind and body, because they support growth in the hippocampus.

In the context of Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Kidney energy (24), is an area that I felt conceptually could be linked to neurogenesis by ‘pre natal chi’ (25) or Jing. This is because of the involvement of the Central Nervous System and stem cells in neurogenesis (26). I also thought that this could be carried across into ‘sexual energy’ or ‘kundalini’ in yoga.

Of course the hippocampus is only one small area of the brain and only one small part of the ‘whole body’, but I am interested that there are so many links with so many corresponding or similar impacting factors such as stress and sleep. The hippocampus is a bit like the ‘spaghetti junction’ of the brain! It is quite important how it fits into the whole body and mind because when it goes wrong or without it (such as was the case for poor Henry Molaison who had his hippocampus removed!)(26) things could get really messy!

The hippocampus is not the be all and end all of epilepsy and autism, or brain function; but I thought it was a good area to take a ‘big picture’ ‘small area’ snapshot into holistic mind body connections.

Normally I talk about one thing at a time, but it occurred to me that it can all fit together if you cross reference all these areas to help understand mind body health!

Happy Christmas and New Year! Wishing you all the best for 2013!

 

1)      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hippocampus

2)      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Limbic_system limbic system

3)      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neurogenesis

4)      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2654382/ epilepsy

5)      http://rosewinelover.com/      Epilepsy Action Advocate Blog

6)      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autism_and_working_memory

7)      http://challengeautism.wordpress.com/ Sandra Beale Ellis blog

8)      http://www.challengeautism.co.uk/#/autism-me/4543515032 autism and karate

9)      http://doctordilday.wordpress.com/2012/12/21/just-another-form-of-exercise/ tai chi and autism

10)   http://brain.oxfordjournals.org/content/124/7/1317.full#ref-29  enriched learning and autism

11)   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neurogenesis  cortisol

12)   http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16965297 oestrogen and cognition

13)   http://www.angelfire.com/yt/yas709neuroscience/hippocampus1.htm melatonin

14)   http://epilepsytalk.com/2012/11/19/epilepsy-and-melatonin-yes-no-or-maybe-so/

Epilepsy Talk

15)   http://asdresearchinitiative.wordpress.com/2012/12/24/top-40-research-articles-of-2012-autism/#comment-1391 autism research

16)   http://asdresearchinitiative.wordpress.com/2012/12/24/sleep-disturbance-in-autism/ sleep autism

17)   http://jonlieffmd.com/blog/new-brain-cells-many-triggers-for-neurogenesis pruning neurons in sleep

18)   http://ahmritanaturalmentalhealth.wordpress.com/2012/11/26/autism-spectrum-as-a-developmental-disorder/ see webinar

19)   http://dragonandrose.wordpress.com/2012/12/18/epilepsy-classical-music/ Mozart effect

20)   http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/bb/neuro/neuro99/web1/Sancar.html

21)   http://www.brainsync.com/blog/neurogenesis-your-brain-renewed/ meditation and neurogenesis

22) http://www.enotes.com/exercise-78701-reference/exercise-108360

23)   http://jonlieffmd.com/blog/new-brain-cells-many-triggers-for-neurogenesis exercise

24)   http://wellmother.wordpress.com/2012/12/20/reflections-on-winter-part-2-how-to-support-our-water-energy-and-the-energy-of-kidney-and-bladder-and-their-relevance-to-211212/ kidney energy

25)   https://www.acufinder.com/Acupuncture+Information/Detail/The+Definition+of+Jing+-+Essence prenatal Jing

26)   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neurogenesis

27)   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Molaison Henry Molaison

asdresearchinitiative very interesting articles on autism and epilepsy also neurological research.

asdresearchinitiative

Rapamycin reverses impaired social interaction in mouse models of tuberous sclerosis complex.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23250422

Impairment of reciprocal social interaction is a core symptom of autism spectrum disorder.

Genetic disorders frequently accompany autism spectrum disorder, such as tuberous sclerosis complex caused by haploinsufficiency of the TSC1 and TSC2 genes. Accumulating evidence implicates a relationship between autism spectrum disorder and signal transduction that involves tuberous sclerosis complex 1, tuberous sclerosis complex 2 and mammalian target of rapamycin.

Here we show behavioural abnormalities relevant to autism spectrum disorder and their recovery by the mammalian target of rapamycin inhibitor rapamycin in mouse models of tuberous sclerosis complex. In Tsc2(+/-) mice, we find enhanced transcription of multiple genes involved in mammalian target of rapamycin signalling, which is dependent on activated mammalian target of rapamycin signalling with a minimal influence of Akt.

The findings indicate a crucial role of mammalian target of rapamycin signalling in deficient social…

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Music and the Mind – Avatar Music For Health?

This post is inspired by the blog: http://dragonandrose.wordpress.com/2012/12/18/epilepsy-classical-music/

Another area around music and brain caught my eye today.

Eduardo Miranda (1) is featured in the BBC report http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-20799961

for his work in Brain Computer interfaces(2).

His research at Plymouth university (3) where ‘music’ meets ‘avatar’, is funded to breakdown Beethoven’s seventh symphony and reinterpret the music on a computer as heard by 3 individuals, a ballerina, a gulf war veteran and Dr Miranda himself.(4)

All the subjects underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanning to take pictures of the emotional responses to the music in the brain so that they could be reapplied to the 2nd movement of Beethoven’s 7th symphony.

Listening to the BBC report is fascinating, as you can hear the difference between the ballerina’s more jerky interpretation of the music (Dr Miranda puts this down to her possible use of body movement in interpretation of music), whereas Dr Miranda’s version is more fluid and different instruments are more audible, he thinks this is because he hears it as someone who plays the piano.

The brain computer interface has also been used by Dr Miranda’s team to help someone with ‘locked in syndrome’ (5) to make music from their brainwaves. Electrodes trigger music from the brainwaves.

The results are a bit weird, but they are wonderful, and Dr Miranda hopes to utilise the technology to perhaps invent a prescription of musical health for people suffering from depression and other emotional health problems, by identifying patterns of brain waves and changing them.

Maybe one day this will even help epilepsy?!

Some basic information about brainwave states can be found at:

http://www.doctorhugo.org/brainwaves/brainwaves.html

As well as some information about Neurofeedback Therapy which has already been used to treat epilepsy as well as migraine, autism, sleep deregulation and others at:

http://www.projectchilld.com/10.html

 

(1)    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eduardo_Reck_Miranda

(2)    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brain-computer_interface

(3)    http://neuromusic.soc.plymouth.ac.uk/

(4)    http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2012-09/23/music-writing-computer

(5)    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Locked-in_syndrome

 

 

Epilepsy and Autism – Epilepsy Therapy Project – Silently Seizing Book Review

http://www.epilepsy.com/newsletter/nov12/silently_seizing?utm_source=Epilepsy+Therapy+Project&utm_campaign=065211be84-Epilepsy_News_11_28_12&utm_medium=email

I have to be honest but until I read the blog post-

http://ahmritanaturalmentalhealth.wordpress.com/2012/11/26/autism-spectrum-as-a-developmental-disorder/

I had never realized how much epilepsy and autism seem to inter-relate, this is despite having supported people with both autistic spectrum and epilepsy health problems who were taking anticonvulsant medication. It goes to show how a different perspective can help with a problem.

I had just never looked into it from this point of view, but now I’m intrigued.

Like many things in life once you see something in one place – you start seeing it everywhere!

Low and behold the Epilepsy Therapy Project newsletter this month has a book review that looks very promising.

‘Silently Seizing’ by Caren Haines, with input from Nancy Minshew.

It is reviewed by by Joseph I. Sirven, MD, Editor-in-Chief, epilepsy.com Last Reviewed: 11/28/2012

I have put up the link to the review at the top of the page, I find this newsletter very interesting.

It begins;

‘A conundrum often faced by those with autism and/or epilepsy is the confusion between these seemingly disparate conditions. Many facets of autism spectrum disorder can have aspects that are similar to the presentation of epilepsy, and vice versa’.

The summary at the end says:

‘This book is a must read for anybody who is interested in understanding the multiple similarities, differences and approaches to dealing with silently seizing. Because of the fragmented nature of healthcare in the United States, it is important to empower oneself with knowledge so as to serve as one’s own best advocate.’

I’m just off to order it now. Thank-you Epilepsy Therapy Project and Ahmrita Nautral Mental Health.

For US Epilepsy Self Advocacy Blog see link:

http://epilepsytalk.com/2012/11/28/damaged-goods/

I found this blog on autism by ahmrita natrual health really interesting and there is a great link to about the neurodiversity movement.

Ignite Your Life Though Action

Thank you to Reflections on life thus far, for this response! http://reflectionsonlifethusfar.wordpress.com/

I am hoping to enlarge on this with some back up from a webinar I have seen this week and also an article about early behavioural interventions, which I am still reading.

I don’t believe Autism Spectrum Disorders are mental illnesses; rather, they are neurobiological disorders. They are a neurological difference instead of a sickness. Treating it as a mental illness makes it seem like the person with it is ‘not quite right’. True, some may have struggles and need coping skills taught to them for their particular challenges but I would certainly not deem them mentally ill. Autism is part of the person and makes them who they are.

It is a similar thing with dyslexia and ADHD. Although these conditions can make the person’s life difficult it’s better to find coping strategies. Many people simply…

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