Effects of Seizures and Immune System Activation on Autism-like Behaviors: An Animal Model
Although autism and epilepsy have a high comorbidity rate, the nature of their relationship is unknown, and there have not been any studies that explicitly test for a causal relationship between the two disorders. There has also been a suggestion of the possible contributing role of immune system dysfunction in autism, and there appears to be a possible interplay between the immune system, epilepsy, and autism as evidenced by increased levels of immune system responses in epilepsy and autism. This study uses an animal model to investigate the effects of seizures and the combination of immune system activation and seizures on autism-like behaviors. Seizures were induced chemically and electrically in the anterior piriform cortex in adult rodents, and pregnant mothers were injected with lipolysaccharide in order to activate the immune system in their offspring. Behavioral tests for social preference and exploration frequency were used to observe the effects of seizures and the combined effect of seizures and immune system activation. This study provides preliminary support for the interaction of immune system activation and seizures in the etiology of some of the behaviors in autism, specifically exploratory behavior. The combination of these two factors affected exploration frequency more than seizures alone. The effects of seizures and immune system activation on social preference were difficult to assess since the mode of seizure induction proved to have the strongest effect on social preference, indicating that different types of seizures occurred depending on whether the anterior piriform cortex was stimulated chemically or electrically.
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