Shaun Hussain, MD, MS: Exploring the Connection Between Autism and Infantile Spasms

December 28, 2019

The director of Infantile Spasms Program at UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital discussed why learning more about patients with infantile spasms may lead to further breakthroughs on the origins of autism spectrum disorder.

“The next step is to really look at the autism question, and apply these quantitative EEG measures and see if we can predict the severity of autism, and measure just how autistic someone is, and feed that back into our study of children with IS.”

At the 73rd annual meeting of the American Epilepsy Society (AES), Shaun Hussain, MD, MS, director, Infantile Spasms Program, UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital, detailed his research on the crossover between infantile spasms (IS), autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and other epilepsies.

Hussain’s study confirmed previous data that showed a high rate of ASD in patients with IS. Notably he observed a low rate of ASD in siblings of patients with IS, bringing into question the assumed genetic etiology of ASD.

Questioning on the extremely high incidence of ASD in IS, Hussain believes that hypsarrhythmia, the abnormal, chaotic brainwave patterns seen in IS, may play a role in this risk. Given that treatment for IS is focused on reducing these chaotic EEG findings, Hussain cautiously suggested that “we may have stumbled upon a means to treat or even prevent ASD in general.”

In an interview with NeurologyLive, Hussain explained how further analysis of EEG patterns may help predict ASD severity, and how improved treatment and resolution of these attributes might reduce ASD in patients with IS.