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Showing posts with label Epilepsy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Epilepsy. Show all posts

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Ketones and Autism Part 1 - Ketones, Epilepsy, GABA and Gut Bacteria




Today’s post is the first in a short series about ketones, that looks into very specific areas of the science.
There was an earlier post on the Ketogenic Diet (KD).

The Clever Ketogenic Diet for some Autism


We already know, anecdotally, that some people with autism respond well to the Ketogenic Diet (KD) and some to just ketone supplements. We also know from some very small clinical trials that a minority of those with autism benefit from the KD. 

What percentage of people with autism respond to ketones?
This is the important question and the simple answer appears to be a minority, albeit a significant minority. A lot depends on what you mean by autism and what you judge to be a response. From reading up on the subject I would estimate that about 20% respond well, but which 20%?

Why do some people with autism respond to ketones and how do you maximize the effect?
There is quite a lot of useful information in the literature, but it is clear that most people do not respond to ketones, so you really need to know if your case is one of the minority that do respond, before getting too carried away with changing diet. From research on people wanting to lose weight there are plenty of practical tips to maximize ketones, even drinking coffee produces more ketones; increasing the hours you fast each day also helps. 
If you have a healthy, sporty, child with autism you might want more ketones but you do not want to lose weight.

Do you have a responder? 
There does not yet appear to be a way to predict who will respond well to ketones, other than those people who have seizures. 
You can read all about ketones or just try them out. To try them out, a good place to start is with the exogenous ketone supplements mainly sold to people trying to lose weight. It looks like 10ml of C8 oil and 10ml of BHB ester is a good place to start and soon you may produce enough ketones to establish if someone is a responder, then you just have to figure out why they are a responder and then to maximize this effect, which might involve things other than ketone supplements.  
You can measure ketones in urine and so you can see whether you have reached the level found in trials that produces a positive effect in some people. If you can establish that you have indeed produced this level of ketones and you see no effect, then it is time to cross ketones and the ketogenic diet off your to-do list.  
If you are fortunate to find a responder, then you can move forward with trying to maximize the benefit. 

Ketone supplements
Ketone supplements can be extremely expensive when you use the recommended dosage and may contain quite large amounts of things that you might not want (sodium, potassium and calcium for example).  Always read the labels.
It is clear that some of these products are much more effective at producing ketones than others. For a change, you can measure their effectiveness and avoid wasting your money. Ketone testing strips are inexpensive. 

Ketone Posts 

·        Part1 - Ketones, epilepsy, GABA and gut bacteria

·        Ketones as a fuel, Alzheimer’s and GLUT1 deficiency

·        Ketones and microglia

·        Ketones as HDAC inhibitors and epigenetic modifiers

·        Ketones, exercise and BDNF

·        Maximizing ketones through diet, fasting, exercise, coffee and supplementation


Ketones, epilepsy, GABA and gut bacteria
Today’s post just looks at the effect of ketones on the neurotransmitter GABA, which should be inhibitory, but in much autism is actually excitatory. The GABA switch failed to flip just after birth and neurons remain in an immature state, due to too many NKCC1 chloride transporters and too few KCC2 chloride transporters. With too much chloride inside neurons GABA has an excitatory effect on neurons causing them to fire when they should not.
In epilepsy, too much excitation from Glutamate and too little inhibition from GABA may lead to seizures. So, in some types of epilepsy you want to increase GABA and reduce Glutamate, i.e. you want to increase the GABA/Glutamate ratio.
In autism it is not clear that increasing the GABA/Glutamate ratio is going to help, it all depends on the kind of autism. Much of this blog is about changing the effect of GABA (flipping the GABA switch) and not changing the amount of it.
In some people with autism and epilepsy ketones resolve the seizures but do not improve the autism.
In other people with autism and no seizures, ketones improve their autism. This may, or may not, be due to the effect ketones have on GABA.  
Two issues are looked into in this post: -
·        Do ketones affect NKCC1/KCC2 expression and hence the effect of GABA in the brain?

·        Do ketones affect the amount of GABA and Glutamate in key parts of the brain?
The good news is that research into epilepsy shows that ketones do indeed have an effect on GABA, but it is highly disputed whether they modify NKCC1/KCC2 expression and the GABA switch from immature to mature neurons. 

The KD and Epilepsy
The KD has been used to treat epilepsy for almost a century, but until very recently nobody really knew why it worked.
A recent very thoughtful study at UCLA has shown that the KD mediates its anti-seizure effects via changes to the bacteria in the gut. The researchers identified the two bacteria and then showed that, at least in mice, the same anti-seizure effect provided by the KD could be provided just by adding these two bacteria (i.e. no need to follow the ketogenic diet).

UCLA scientists have identified specific gut bacteria that play an essential role in the anti-seizure effects of the high-fat, low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet. The study, published today in the journal Cell, is the first to establish a causal link between seizure susceptibility and the gut microbiota — the 100 trillion or so bacteria and other microbes that reside in the human body’s intestines.

The ketogenic diet has numerous health benefits, including fewer seizures for children with epilepsy who do not respond to anti-epileptic medications, said Elaine Hsiao, UCLA assistant professor of integrative biology and physiology in the UCLA College, and senior author of the study. However, there has been no clear explanation for exactly how the diet aids children with epilepsy.
Researchers in Hsiao’s laboratory hypothesized that the gut microbiota is altered through the ketogenic diet and is important for the diet’s anti-seizure effects. Hsiao’s research team conducted a comprehensive investigation into whether the microbiota influences the ability of the diet to protect against seizures and if so, how the microbiota achieves these effects.
In a study of mice as a model to more thoroughly understand epilepsy, the researchers found that the diet substantially altered the gut microbiota in fewer than four days, and mice on the diet had significantly fewer seizures.
To test whether the microbiota is important for protection against seizures, the researchers analyzed the effects of the ketogenic diet on two types of mice: those reared as germ-free in a sterile laboratory environment and mice treated with antibiotics to deplete gut microbes.
“In both cases, we found the ketogenic diet was no longer effective in protecting against seizures,” said lead author Christine Olson, a UCLA graduate student in Hsiao’s laboratory. “This suggests that the gut microbiota is required for the diet to effectively reduce seizures.”
The biologists identified the precise order of organic molecules known as nucleotides from the DNA of gut microbiota to determine which bacteria were present and at what levels after the diet was administered. They identified two types of bacteria that were elevated by the diet and play a key role in providing this protection: Akkermansia muciniphila and Parabacteroides species.
With this new knowledge, they studied germ-free mice that were given these bacteria.
“We found we could restore seizure protection if we gave these particular types of bacteria together,” Olson said. “If we gave either species alone, the bacteria did not protect against seizures; this suggests that these different bacteria perform a unique function when they are together.”
The researchers measured levels of hundreds of biochemicals in the gut, blood and hippocampus, a region of the brain that plays an important role in spreading seizures in the brain. They found that the bacteria that were elevated by the ketogenic diet alter levels of biochemicals in the gut and the blood in ways that affect neurotransmitters in the hippocampus.
How do the bacteria do this? “The bacteria increased brain levels of GABA — a neurotransmitter that silences neurons — relative to brain levels of glutamate, a neurotransmitter that activates neurons to fire,” said co-author Helen Vuong, a postdoctoral scholar in Hsiao’s laboratory.
“This study inspires us to study whether similar roles for gut microbes are seen in people that are on the ketogenic diet,” Vuong said.
“The implications for health and disease are promising, but much more research needs to be done to test whether discoveries in mice also apply to humans,” said Hsiao, who is also an assistant professor of medicine in the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
On behalf of the Regents of the University of California, the UCLA Technology Development Group has filed a patent on Hsiao’s technology that mimics the ketogenic diet to provide seizure protection. It has exclusively licensed it to a start-up company Hsiao has helped to launch that will examine the potential clinical applications of her laboratory’s findings.
Here is Hsiao’s new start-up:

“We are hacking the ketogenic diet to identify microbes that have therapeutic potential for the treatment of epilepsy,” says Bloom CEO Tony Colasin.
The San Diego-based start-up isn’t announcing how much seed funding it raised, but Colasin plans to move fast and get a product on the market in a mere two to three years. That’s because Bloom will first develop a medical food based on the two kinds of bacteria identified in Hsiao’s study. Bloom also has plans to optimize the bacterial strains for specific kinds of epilepsy to develop a traditional approved drug.

The way the bacteria help control seizures actually appears to be similar to the mechanism of many commercial ant epilepsy drugs. The microbes’ metabolism increases the ratio of inhibitory to excitatory neurotransmitters in the brain—specifically, higher levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) relative to levels of glutamate.
Bloom is also considering how the microbiome benefits of the ketogenic diet could be helpful in other neurological conditions, including autism, depression, and Parkinson’s disease. “It is early days, but we are excited about the potential,” Colasin says.

Here is the full paper: -

The ketogenic diet (KD) is used to treat refractory epilepsy, but the mechanisms underlying its neuroprotective effects remain unclear. Here, we show that the gut microbiota is altered by the KD and required for protection against acute electrically induced seizures and spontaneous tonic-clonic seizures in two mouse models. Mice treated with antibiotics or reared germ free are resistant to KD-mediated seizure protection. Enrichment of, and gnotobiotic co-colonization with, KD-associated Akkermansia and Parabacteroides restores seizure protection. Moreover, transplantation of the KD gut microbiota and treatment with Akkermansia and Parabacteroides each confer seizure protection to mice fed a control diet. Alterations in colonic lumenal, serum, and hippocampal metabolomic profiles correlate with seizure protection, including reductions in systemic gamma-glutamylated amino acids and elevated hippocampal GABA/glutamate levels. Bacterial cross-feeding decreases gamma-glutamyltranspeptidase activity, and inhibiting gamma-glutamylation promotes seizure protection in vivo. Overall, this study reveals that the gut microbiota modulates host metabolism and seizure susceptibility in mice.











Achieving the Gut Bacteria changes of the KD without the diet

Since the ketogenic diet (KD) is very restrictive, it would be much more convenient to achieve the GABA/Glutamate effect in a simpler way. You cannot currently just buy these two bacteria as a supplement.  There would seem to be 2 other obvious options: -

·        Take exogenous ketone supplements and hope this causes the same gut bacterial changes produced by the KD. No evidence exists.

·        Use other known methods to increase to increase Akkermansia muciniphila and Parabacteroides species in a similar way to that likely being developed by Bloom Sciences in San Diego. Bloom are developing a medical food to achieve this, so it will require a prescription and it will be costly. 

Increasing Akkermansia muciniphila can be achieved using fructooligosaccharides (FOS). FOS is included in many types of formula milk for babies and is sold as a supplement.
Metformin, a drug used to treat type 2 diabetes, greatly increases Akkermansia muciniphila. Vancomycin, the antibiotic that stays in the gut, also greatly increases Akkermansia muciniphila, but it is also going to wipe out many bacteria.
The research shows you also need the second bacteria Parabacteroides, of which there are many types. These bacteria are found in high levels in people following a Mediterranean type diet but it can be increased using Resistant Starch Type 4. This type of starch has been chemically modified to resist digestion. This starch is sold as food ingredient to add to bakery products.




Viable A. muciniphila and fructooligosaccharides contently promote A. muciniphila. 
Metformin and vancomycin also significantly promote A. muciniphila.



“Akkermansia can also be increased by consuming polyphenol-rich foods, including:

·         pomegranate (attributed to ellagitannins and their metabolites)

·      grape polyphenols (grape seed extract) (proanthocyanidin-rich extracts may increase mucus secretion, therefore creating a favorable environment for Akkermansia to thrive) 

·   cranberries “ 


The abundance of Parabacteroides distasonis (P = .025) and Faecalibacterium prausnitzii (P = .020) increased after long-term consumption of the Med diet and the LFHCC diet, respectively.






Resistant starches types 2 and 4 have differential effects on the composition of the fecal microbiota in human subjects.


Abstract


BACKGROUND:


To systematically develop dietary strategies based on resistant starch (RS) that modulate the human gut microbiome, detailed in vivo studies that evaluate the effects of different forms of RS on the community structure and population dynamics of the gut microbiota are necessary. The aim of the present study was to gain a community wide perspective of the effects of RS types 2 (RS2) and 4 (RS4) on the fecal microbiota in human individuals.

METHODS AND FINDINGS:


Ten human subjects consumed crackers for three weeks each containing either RS2, RS4, or native starch in a double-blind, crossover design. Multiplex sequencing of 16S rRNA tags revealed that both types of RS induced several significant compositional alterations in the fecal microbial populations, with differential effects on community structure. RS4 but not RS2 induced phylum-level changes, significantly increasing Actinobacteria and Bacteroidetes while decreasing Firmicutes. At the species level, the changes evoked by RS4 were increases in Bifidobacterium adolescentis and Parabacteroides distasonis, while RS2 significantly raised the proportions of Ruminococcus bromii and Eubacterium rectale when compared to RS4. The population shifts caused by RS4 were numerically substantial for several taxa, leading for example, to a ten-fold increase in bifidobacteria in three of the subjects, enriching them to 18-30% of the fecal microbial community. The responses to RS and their magnitudes varied between individuals, and they were reversible and tightly associated with the consumption of RS.

CONCLUSION:


Our results demonstrate that RS2 and RS4 show functional differences in their effect on human fecal microbiota composition, indicating that the chemical structure of RS determines its accessibility by groups of colonic bacteria. The findings imply that specific bacterial populations could be selectively targeted by well-designed functional carbohydrates, but the inter-subject variations in the response to RS indicates that such strategies might benefit from more personalized approaches.


Ketones and NKCC1/KCC2  
The next part of this post does get complicated and so it will be of interest to a smaller number of readers; the question is whether ketones play a role in the (miss) expression of those two critical chloride transporters NKCC1 and KCC2. If ketones play a role, then they might have therapeutic potential in all those people with autism and Down Syndrome who respond to bumetanide.
Some researchers think ketones play such a role but the bumetanide for autism researchers disagree.
The ongoing disagreement in the research is about the role played by a lack of ketones in why in immature neurons GABA is excitatory. Regular readers will know that in a large group of autism the GABA switch never flips and so neurons remain in the immature state that was only supposed to last weeks after birth. The debate in the research is to what extent ketone bodies play a role.
We know that in much autism and indeed in those with other problems like neuropathic pain, there can be elevated chloride due to over-expression of NKCC1 (through which chloride enters) and under-expression of KCC2 (through which chloride ions exit neurons). 

GABA action in immature neocortical neurons directly depends on the availability of ketone bodies. 


Abstract


In the early postnatal period, energy metabolism in the suckling rodent brain relies to a large extent on metabolic pathways alternate to glucose such as the utilization of ketone bodies (KBs). However, how KBs affect neuronal excitability is not known. Using recordings of single NMDA and GABA-activated channels in neocortical pyramidal cells we studied the effects of KBs on the resting membrane potential (E(m)) and reversal potential of GABA-induced anionic currents (E(GABA)), respectively. We show that during postnatal development (P3-P19) if neocortical brain slices are adequately supplied with KBs, E(m) and E(GABA) are both maintained at negative levels of about -83 and -80 mV, respectively. Conversely, a KB deficiency causes a significant depolarization of both E(m) (>5 mV) and E(GABA) (>15 mV). The KB-mediated shift in E(GABA) is largely determined by the interaction of the NKCC1 cotransporter and Cl(-)/HCO3 transporter(s). Therefore, by inducing a hyperpolarizing shift in E(m) and modulating GABA signaling mode, KBs can efficiently control the excitability of neonatal cortical neurons.

In the early postnatal period, energy metabolism in the suckling rodent brain relies to a large extent on metabolic pathways alternate to glucose such as the utilization of ketone bodies (KBs). However, how KBs affect neuronal excitability is not known. Using recordings of single NMDA and GABA activated channels in neocortical pyramidal cells we studied the effects of KBs on the resting membrane potential (Em) and reversal potential of GABA-induced anionic currents (EGABA), respectively. We show that during postnatal development (P3–P19) if neocortical brain slices are adequately supplied with KBs, Em and EGABA are both maintained at negative

levels of about )83 and )80 mV, respectively. Conversely, a KB deficiency causes a significant depolarization of both Em (>5 mV) and EGABA (>15 mV). The KB-mediated shift in EGABA is largely determined by the interaction of the NKCC1 cotransporter and Cl)/HCO3 transporter(s). Therefore, by inducing a hyperpolarizing shift in Em and modulating GABA signaling mode, KBs can efficiently control the excitability of neonatal cortical neurons. Keywords: cortex, development, energy substrates, GABA, ketone bodies, resting potential.

showed that in the presence of KBs, values of EGABA in neocortical pyramidal neurons were close to Em, and did not change significantly during postnatal development, being maintained at about )80 mV (see Fig. 3). We cannot exclude the possibility that these values may differ in dendritic (Gulledge and Stuart 2003) or axonal (Price and Trussell 2006; Trigo et al. 2007; Khirug et al. 2008) compartments, an issue for future studies. Additionally, in this study we have limited our investigations to pyramidal cells, and the effects of KBs on interneurons remain to be explored. Nevertheless, the present observations suggest that energy substrates in the developing brain are an important issue to consider when studying neonatal neuronal excitability. Indeed, the most straightforward explanation for the difference between the results of the current study and those of previous studies of the development of neonatal GABA signaling lies in the fact that the brain of the suckling rodent relies strongly on KBs (Cremer and Heath 1974; Dombrowski et al. 1989; Hawkins et al. 1971; Lockwood and Bailey 1971; Lust et al. 2003; Page et al. 1971; Pereira de Vasconcelos and Nehlig 1987; Schroeder et al. 1991; Yeh and Zee 1976). Glucose utilization is limited at this age (Dombrowski et al. 1989; Nehlig, 1997; Nehlig et al. 1988; Prins 2008) because of the delayed maturation of the glycolytic enzymatic system (Dombrowski et al. 1989; Land et al. 1977; Leong and Clark 1984; Prins 2008). Use of glucose as the sole energy substrate caused an increase in neonatal neuronal [Cl)]i in our experiments, similar to that observed previously, while the addition of KBs resulted in a hyperpolarizing shift in both Em and EGABA. These results highlighted the need for caution in the interpretation of results obtained from neonatal brain slices superfused with standard ACSF. The cation chloride cotransporters NKCC1 and KCC2have been suggested to be the main regulators of neuronal Cl) homeostasis both during development (Farrant and Kaila 2007; Fiumelli and Woodin 2007) and in pathology (Galanopoulou, 2007; Kahle and Staley, 2008; Kahle et al. 2008).Although the possible contribution of anion exchangers to neuronal Cl) homeostasis has been noted previously (Farrant and Kaila 2007; Hentschke et al. 2006; Hubneret al. 2004; Pfeffer et al. 2009), they have not attracted the same degree of attention. Results from our study demonstrate, however, that the Cl)/HCO)3 transporter system is strongly involved in the KB-mediated regulation of [Cl)]i during postnatal development. Within this family, the Na-dependent Cl)/HCO)3 transporter (NDCBE), is of particular interest as it is expressed in the cortex (Chen et al. 2008) and has a strong dependence on ATP for its action (Chen et al. 2008; Davis et al. 2008; Romero et al. 2004). In addition, the sodium driven chloride bicarbonate exchanger(NCBE),(Giffardet al. 2003; Hubner et al. 2004; Lee et al. 2006) was expressed in the brain early during prenatal development and its expression preceded that of KCC2 (Hubner et al. 2004).

In neonatal neocortical neurons the interaction of NKCC1 and the Cl)/HCO3) transporter(s) maintained [Cl)]i, with KCC2 playing a less significant role at this stage. In the absence of KBs, when Cl)/HCO3) transporter(s) were less effective, the role of NKCC1 as a Cl) loader was especially noticeable and resulted in a depolarizing EGABA. During development the contribution of KCC2 to neocortical neuronal Cl) homeostasis is likely to increase (Stein et al. 2004; Zhang et al. 2006), and the balance between the actions of the different Cl) transporters in adults should be studied in the future. In humans, blood levels of KBs increase considerably during fasting, strenuous exercise, stress, or on the high-fat, low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet (KD) (Newburgh and Marsh 1920). A rapidly growing body of evidence indicates that the KD can have numerous neuroprotective effects (Gasior et al. 2006). During treatment with the KD, levels of KBs increase in both blood and brain, and cerebral metabolism adapts to preferentially use KBs as an alternate energy substrate to glucose (Kim do and Rho 2008). In children, the KD has been used as an effective treatment for medically refractory epilepsy (Freeman et al. 2007; Hartman and Vining 2007). However, despite nearly a century of use, the mechanisms underlying its clinical efficacy have proved elusive (Morris 2005; Bough and Rho 2007; Kim do and Rho 2008). Suckling rodents provide a natural model of the KD because of the high ketogenic ratio (Wilder and Winter 1922) of rodent milk (Page et al. 1971; Nehlig 1999). We propose that the KB-induced modulation of GABA-signaling may constitute a mechanism of anticonvulsive actions of the KD.

Now for the opposing views: -

Summary
Brain slices incubated with glucose have provided most of our knowledge on cellular, synaptic, and network driven mechanisms. It has been recently suggested that γ‐aminobutyric acid (GABA) excites neonatal neurons in conventional glucose‐perfused slices but not when ketone bodies metabolites, pyruvate, and/or lactate are added, suggesting that the excitatory actions of GABA are due to energy deprivation when glucose is the sole energy source. In this article, we review the vast number of studies that show that slices are not energy deprived in glucose‐containing medium, and that addition of other energy substrates at physiologic concentrations does not alter the excitatory actions of GABA on neonatal neurons. In contrast, lactate, like other weak acids, can produce an intracellular acidification that will cause a reduction of intracellular chloride and a shift of GABA actions. The effects of high concentrations of lactate, and particularly of pyruvate (4–5 mm), as used are relevant primarily to pathologic conditions; these concentrations not being found in the brain in normal “control” conditions. Slices in glucose‐containing medium may not be ideal, but additional energy substrates neither correspond to physiologic conditions nor alter GABA actions. In keeping with extensive observations in a wide range of animal species and brain structures, GABA depolarizes immature neurons and the reduction of the intracellular concentration of chloride ([Cl]i) is a basic property of brain maturation that has been preserved throughout evolution. In addition, this developmental sequence has important clinical implications, notably concerning the higher incidence of seizures early in life and their long‐lasting deleterious sequels. Immature neurons have difficulties exporting chloride that accumulates during seizures, leading to permanent increase of [Cl]i that converts the inhibitory actions of GABA to excitatory and hampers the efficacy of GABA‐acting antiepileptic drugs.  


GABA depolarizes immature neurons because of a high [Cl]i and orchestrates giant depolarizing potential (GDP) generation. Zilberter and coworkers (Rheims et al., 2009; Holmgren et al., 2010) showed recently that the ketone body metabolite dl-3-hydroxybutyrate (dl-BHB) (4 mm), lactate (4 mm), or pyruvate (5 mm) shifted GABA actions to hyperpolarizing, suggesting that the depolarizing effects of GABA are attributable to inadequate energy supply when glucose is the sole energy source. We now report that, in rat pups (postnatal days 4–7), plasma d-BHB, lactate, and pyruvate levels are 0.9, 1.5, and 0.12 mm, respectively. Then, we show that dl-BHB (4 mm) and pyruvate (200 μm) do not affect (i) the driving force for GABAA receptor-mediated currents (DFGABA) in cell-attached single-channel recordings, (2) the resting membrane potential and reversal potential of synaptic GABAA receptor-mediated responses in perforated patch recordings, (3) the action potentials triggered by focal GABA applications, or (4) the GDPs determined with electrophysiological recordings and dynamic two-photon calcium imaging. Only very high non physiological concentrations of pyruvate (5 mm) reduced DFGABA and blocked GDPs. Therefore, dl-BHB does not alter GABA signals even at the high concentrations used by Zilberter and colleagues, whereas pyruvate requires exceedingly high non-physiological concentrations to exert an effect. There is no need to alter conventional glucose enriched artificial CSF to investigate GABA signals in the developing brain.

Very recent research shows that ketones do not affect the expression of NKCC1 or KCC2. This would tend to support the argument of Ben Ari and Tyzio.


  
Nonetheless it seems that ketone bodies do indeed have an effect on GABA; they appear to change the hippocampal GABA/Glutamate ratio. 
So Tyzio might not be as right as he thought in his rebuttal paper when he said.
“suggesting, contrary to Zilberter and colleagues, that the antiepileptic actions of ketone bodies are not mediated by GABA signalling
Tyzio is thinking about the resting membrane potential (Em) and reversal potential of GABA-induced anionic currents (EGABA).
At the end of that day a reduction in gamma-glutamylated amino acids, caused by changes in gut microbiota cause an increase in hippocampal GABA/Glutamate ratio. If you happen to have epilepsy this may mean less seizures.  

Conclusion
I think we can say with a fair degree of certainty that we now know why the ketogenic diet, and indeed the modified Atkins diet, greatly reduce seizures in many people with epilepsy. The diet changes the gut microbiota by increasing the amount of Akkermansia muciniphila and Parabacteroides species, the end result is an increase in GABA, the inhibitory neurotransmitter, inside the brain. In much epilepsy, more inhibition to neurons firing results is far less seizures.
GABA plays a key role in autism, albeit a complex one.
The ketone driven changes to GABA might explain why some people with autism respond to the KD or just ketone supplements, but ketones have many other effects relevant to autism that will be reviewed in later posts.







Thursday, 28 September 2017

Making Sense of Abnormal EEGs in Autism


There is no medical consensus about what to do with people who have subclinical epileptiform discharges (SEDs) on their EEG. That is people who do not have seizures but have an abnormal EEG. There is evidence to support the use of anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) in such people.
About 5% of the general population have SEDs, but a far higher number of people with autism have SEDs.
You are more likely to detect epileptiform activity depending on which test you use. Magnetoencephalography (MEG) detects the most abnormalities, followed by a sleep EEG and then an EEG with a subject wide awake.
It had been thought that epileptiform activity (SEDs) was more common in regressive autism, but that is no longer thought to be the case. It even briefly had a name, Autistic Epileptiform Regression (AER). Subsequent studies indicate that regression is not relevant to subclinical epileptiform discharges (SEDs).
Estimates of prevalence still vary dramatically from Dr Chez at 60% to others believing it is 20-30%.
Epileptiform activity without seizures does also occur in about 5% of neurotypical people.
Dr Chez and some others believe in treating epileptiform activity with anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs), with valproate being the popular choice. Some neurologists believe in leaving SEDs untreated. 
Personally I would consider minor epileptiform activity in autism as pre-epilepsy. We know that about 30% of those with more severe autism will develop epilepsy and we know that in many cases when they start to receive AEDs their autism tends to moderate.
We know that an excitatory/inhibitory (E/I) imbalance is at the core of many types of autism and we should not be surprised that brains in an excitatory state produce odd electrical activity; rather we should be expecting it.
There are different types of possible E/I imbalance in the brain and there are very many different biological mechanisms that can trigger seizures. So nothing is simple and exceptions may be more likely than valid generalizations. So we should not be surprised that in one child valproate normalized their EEG, while in another it makes it worse.
In this post we review the far from conclusive literature.
I think that everything should be done to avoid the first seizure in a child with autism, for some people this may possible using bumetanide, but for others very likely entirely different therapy will be needed. The first seizure seems to lower the threshold at which further seizures may occur. 
Valproate appears to be the preferred AED, but in some people it can actually make epileptiform activity worse. In some people the Modified Atkins Diet (MAD) has normalized epileptiform activity, this is not a surprise given that this diet and the more complex ketogenic diet are successfully used to treat epilepsy.
If an AED can normalize the EEG result and at the same time improve behavior or cognition, it would seem a good choice.
It would be interesting if the Bumetanide researchers carried out a before and after sleep EEG in their autism clinical trials, along with the IQ test that I suggested to them a long time ago. 


Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are an etiologically and clinically heterogeneous group of neurodevelopmental disorders. The pathophysiology of ASD remains largely unknown. One essential and well-documented observation is high comorbidity between ASD and epilepsy. Electroencephalography (EEG) is the most widely used tool to detect epileptic brain activity. The EEG signal is characterized by a high temporal resolution (on the order of milliseconds) allowing for precise temporal examination of cortical activity. This review addresses the main EEG findings derived from both the standard or qualitative (visually inspected) EEG and the quantitative (computer analyzed) EEG during resting state in individuals with ASD. The bulk of the evidence supports significant connectivity disturbances in ASD that are possibly widespread with two specific aspects: over-connectivity in the local networks and under-connectivity in the long-distance networks. Furthermore, the review suggested that disruptions appear more severe in later developing parts of the brain (e.g., prefrontal cortex). Based on available information, from both the qualitative and quantitative EEG literature, we postulate a preliminary hypothesis that increased cortical excitability may contribute to the significant overlap between ASD and epilepsy and may be contributing to the connectivity deviations noted. As the presence of a focal epileptic discharge is a clear indication of such hyperexcitability, we conclude that the presence of epileptic discharges is a potential biomarker at least for a subgroup of ASD.
Finally, it is not known whether currently available seizure medications are effective in normalizing hyperexcitable brain tissue that has not yet become capable of inducing seizures. Scattered reports suggest that a few of these medications may have some efficacy in this regards but further research is needed to examine these efficacies, particularly in newly diagnosed ASD patients.  

Summary: The efficacy of antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) in treating behavioral symptoms in nonepileptic psychiatric patients with abnormal EEGs is currently unknown. Although isolated epileptiform discharges have been reported in many psychiatric conditions, they are most commonly observed in patients with aggression, panic, or autistic spectrum disorders. The literature search was guided by 3 criteria: (1) studies had patients who did not experience seizures, (2) patients had EEGs, and (3) an AED was administered. Most important finding is that the number of “controlled” studies was extremely small. Overall, most reports suggest that the use of an AED can be associated with clinical and, at times, improved EEG abnormalities. Additionally, six controlled studies were found for other psychiatric disorders, such as learning disabilities with similar results. Overall, the use of anticonvulsants to treat nonepileptic psychiatric patients needs further controlled studies to better define indications, adequate EEG work-up, best AED to be used, and optimal durations of treatment attempts.  

What does the Simons Foundation have to say? They are funding a clinical trial. 


Spence and her collaborator, Greg Barnes at Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville, plan to test whether an anticonvulsant medication (valproic acid, also known as divalproex sodium or Depakote) can be used to treat children with autism and epileptiform EEGs. The researchers aim to recruit 30 participants between 4 and 8 years old who have been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder and who do not have epilepsy or metabolic disorders.


The views of the US National Institute of Mental Health:-  


Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder of unknown etiology characterized by social and communication deficits and the presence of restricted interests/repetitive behaviors. Higher rates of epilepsy have long been reported, but prevalence estimates vary from as little as 5% to as much as 46%. This variation is probably the result of sample characteristics that increase epilepsy risk such as sample ascertainment, lower IQ, the inclusion of patients with non-idiopathic autism, age, and gender. However, critical review of the literature reveals that the rate in idiopathic cases with normal IQ is still significantly above the population risk suggesting that autism itself is associated with an increased risk of epilepsy. Recently there has been interest in the occurrence of epileptiform electroencephalograms (EEGs) even in the absence of epilepsy. Rates as high as 60% have been reported and some investigators propose that these abnormalities may play a causal role in the autism phenotype. While this phenomenon is still not well understood and risk factors have yet to be determined, the treatment implications are increasingly important. We review the recent literature to elucidate possible risk factors for both epilepsy and epileptiform EEGs. We then review existing data and discuss controversies surrounding treatment of EEG abnormalities.


The now disputed AER subgroup:- 


Autistic regression is a well known condition that occurs in one third of children with pervasive developmental disorders, who, after normal development in the first year of life, undergo a global regression during the second year that encompasses language, social skills and play. In a portion of these subjects, epileptiform abnormalities are present with or without seizures, resembling, in some respects, other epileptiform regressions of language and behaviour such as Landau-Kleffner syndrome. In these cases, for a more accurate definition of the clinical entity, the term autistic epileptifom regression has been suggested.

As in other epileptic syndromes with regression, the relationships between EEG abnormalities, language and behaviour, in autism, are still unclear. We describe two cases of autistic epileptiform regression selected from a larger group of children with autistic spectrum disorders, with the aim of discussing the clinical features of the condition, the therapeutic approach and the outcome.



Dr Chez has a long involvement and his findings have evolved:-

In 1999:- 


Background. One-third of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are reported to have had normal early development followed by an autistic regression between the ages of 2 and 3 years. This clinical profile partly parallels that seen in Landau-Kleffner syndrome (LKS), an acquired language disorder (aphasia) believed to be caused by epileptiform activity. Given the additional observation that one-third of autistic children experience one or more seizures by adolescence, epileptiform activity may play a causal role in some cases of autism.

Objective. To compare and contrast patterns of epileptiform activity in children with autistic regressions versus classic LKS to determine if there is neurobiological overlap between these conditions. It was hypothesized that many children with regressive ASDs would show epileptiform activity in a multifocal pattern that includes the same brain regions implicated in LKS.

Design. Magnetoencephalography (MEG), a noninvasive method for identifying zones of abnormal brain electrophysiology, was used to evaluate patterns of epileptiform activity during stage III sleep in 6 children with classic LKS and 50 children with regressive ASDs with onset between 20 and 36 months of age (16 with autism and 34 with pervasive developmental disorder–not otherwise specified). Whereas 5 of the 6 children with LKS had been previously diagnosed with complex-partial seizures, a clinical seizure disorder had been diagnosed for only 15 of the 50 ASD children. However, all the children in this study had been reported to occasionally demonstrate unusual behaviors (eg, rapid blinking, holding of the hands to the ears, unprovoked crying episodes, and/or brief staring spells) which, if exhibited by a normal child, might be interpreted as indicative of a subclinical epileptiform condition. MEG data were compared with simultaneously recorded electroencephalography (EEG) data, and with data from previous 1-hour and/or 24-hour clinical EEG, when available. Multiple-dipole, spatiotemporal modeling was used to identify sites of origin and propagation for epileptiform transients.

Results. The MEG of all children with LKS showed primary or secondary epileptiform involvement of the left intra/perisylvian region, with all but 1 child showing additional involvement of the right sylvian region. In all cases of LKS, independent epileptiform activity beyond the sylvian region was absent, although propagation of activity to frontal or parietal regions was seen occasionally. MEG identified epileptiform activity in 41 of the 50 (82%) children with ASDs. In contrast, simultaneous EEG revealed epileptiform activity in only 68%. When epileptiform activity was present in the ASDs, the same intra/perisylvian regions seen to be epileptiform in LKS were active in 85% of the cases. Whereas primary activity outside of the sylvian regions was not seen for any of the children with LKS, 75% of the ASD children with epileptiform activity demonstrated additional nonsylvian zones of independent epileptiform activity. Despite the multifocal nature of the epileptiform activity in the ASDs, neurosurgical intervention aimed at control has lead to a reduction of autistic features and improvement in language skills in 12 of 18 cases.

Conclusions. This study demonstrates that there is a subset of children with ASDs who demonstrate clinically relevant epileptiform activity during slow-wave sleep, and that this activity may be present even in the absence of a clinical seizure disorder. MEG showed significantly greater sensitivity to this epileptiform activity than simultaneous EEG, 1-hour clinical EEG, and 24-hour clinical EEG. The multifocal epileptiform pattern identified by MEG in the ASDs typically includes the same perisylvian brain regions identified as abnormal in LKS. When epileptiform activity is present in the ASDs, therapeutic strategies (antiepileptic drugs, steroids, and even neurosurgery) aimed at its control can lead to a significant improvement in language and autistic features. autism, pervasive developmental disorder–not otherwise specified, epilepsy, magnetoencephalography, Landau-Kleffner syndrome.


2004


Epileptiform activity in sleep has been described even in the absence of clinical seizures in 43–68% of patients with autistic spectrum disorders (ASDs). Genetic factors may play a significant role in the frequency of epilepsy, yet the frequency in normal age-matched controls is unknown. We studied overnight ambulatory electroencephalograms (EEGs) in 12 nonepileptic, nonautistic children with a sibling with both ASDs and an abnormal EEG. EEG studies were read and described independently by two pediatric epileptologists; 10 were normal studies and 2 were abnormal. The occurrence of abnormal EEGs in our sample (16.6%) was lower than the reported occurrence in children with ASDs. Further, the two abnormal EEGs were of types typically found in childhood and were different from those found in the ASD-affected siblings. The lack of similarity between sibling EEGs suggests that genetic factors alone do not explain the higher frequency of EEG abnormalities reported in ASDs.



2006:

Frequency of epileptiform EEG abnormalities in a sequential screening of autistic patients with no known clinical epilepsy from 1996 to2005. 


Abstract


Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) affect 1 in 166 births. Although electroencephalogram (EEG) abnormalities and clinical seizures may play a role in ASDs, the exact frequency of EEG abnormalities in an ASD population that has not had clinical seizures or prior abnormal EEGs is unknown. There is no current consensus on whether treatment of EEG abnormalities may influence development. This retrospective review of 24-hour ambulatory digital EEG data collected from 889 ASD patients presenting between 1996 and 2005 (with no known genetic conditions, brain malformations, prior medications, or clinical seizures) shows that 540 of 889 (60.7%) subjects had abnormal EEG epileptiform activity in sleep with no difference based on clinical regression. The most frequent sites of epileptiform abnormalities were localized over the right temporal region. Of 176 patients treated with valproic acid, 80 normalized on EEG and 30 more showed EEG improvement compared with the first EEG (average of 10.1 months to repeat EEG).

  

An easy to read two page review paper: 


Many authors focused their research on the relationship between EEG abnormalities and autistic regression. Our analysis included only studies that involved autistic children with and without regression, i.e. clinically non-selected samples. We excluded studies involving only children with regression, or only children with EEG abnormalities. A summary of our findings is presented in Table 1.

A large majority of the studies (7 of 9 studies) did not find any significant relationship between EEG abnormalities and autistic regression. Only two studies were positive [10,11]. Of all the studies, Tuchman & Rapin [10] had the largest sample (585 children) but only part of the sample (392 children) had EEGs available (i.e. sleep EEGs; only sleep EEGs were performed in this study). Readers of the Tuchman & Rapin [10] study should note that the overall rate of epilepsy in the autistic sample was quite low (11%), as was the rate of epileptiform EEG abnormalities in non-epileptic autistic patients (15%). In comparison, other studies listed in our summary gave higher rates of epileptiform abnormalities in non-epileptic autistic children, 19% [12], 22% [13], and 24% [14]. The overall rate of epileptiform EEG abnormalities in the whole sample (21%) was also very low, where other comparable studies were in the range of 28 - 48% [5,11,14-17].  



What about Keppra (Levetiracetam) ? Here we have a clinical trial


Subclinical epileptiform discharges (SEDs) are common in pediatric patients with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), but the effect of antiepileptic drugs on SEDs in ASD remains inconclusive. This physician-blinded, prospective, randomized controlled trial investigated an association between the anticonvulsant drug levetiracetam and SEDs in children with ASD.

Methods


A total of 70 children with ASD (4–6 years) and SEDs identified by electroencephalogram were randomly divided into two equal groups to receive either levetiracetam and educational training (treatment group) or educational training only (control). At baseline and after 6 months treatment, the following scales were used to assess each individual’s behavioral and cognitive functions: the Chinese version of the Psychoeducational Profile – third edition (PEP-3), Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS), and Autism Behavior Checklist (ABC). A 24-hour electroencephalogram was recorded on admission (baseline) and at follow-up. The degree of satisfaction of each patient was also evaluated.

Results


Relative to baseline, at the 6-month follow-up, the PEP-3, CARS, and ABC scores were significantly improved in both the treatment and control groups. At the 6-month follow-up, the PEP-3 scores of the treatment group were significantly higher than those of the control, whereas the CARS and ABC scores were significantly lower, and the rate of electroencephalographic normalization was significantly higher in the treatment group.

Conclusion


Levetiracetam appears to be effective for controlling SEDs in pediatric patients with ASD and was also associated with improved behavioral and cognitive functions. 


Levetiracetam


Levetiracetam (LEV) is a broad-spectrum antiepileptic agent that has been used effectively for a variety of seizure types in adults and children, and for different psychiatric disorders.39,40

LEV does not have a direct effect on GABA receptor-mediated responses. In vitro findings reveal that LEV behaves as a modulator of GABA type A and of the glycine receptors, suppressing the inhibitory effect of other negative modulators (beta-carbolines and zinc). LEV inhibits the ability of zinc and beta-carbolines to interrupt chloride influx, an effect that enhances chloride ion influx at the GABA type A receptor complex.



And Lamictal (Lamotrigine)? 

This study is in general autism, not autism with epileptiform activity:- 


In autism, glutamate may be increased or its receptors up-regulated as part of an excitotoxic process that damages neural networks and subsequently contributes to behavioral and cognitive deficits seen in the disorder. This was a double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel group study of lamotrigine, an agent that modulates glutamate release. Twenty-eight children (27 boys) ages 3 to 11 years (M = 5.8) with a primary diagnosis of autistic disorder received either placebo or lamotrigine twice daily. In children on lamotrigine, the drug was titrated upward over 8 weeks to reach a mean maintenance dose of 5.0 mg/kg per day. This dose was then maintained for 4 weeks. Following maintenance evaluations, the drug was tapered down over 2 weeks. The trial ended with a 4-week drug-free period. Outcome measures included improvements in severity and behavioral features of autistic disorder (stereotypies, lethargy, irritability, hyperactivity, emotional reciprocity, sharing pleasures) and improvements in language and communication, socialization, and daily living skills noted after 12 weeks (the end of a 4-week maintenance phase). We did not find any significant differences in improvements between lamotrigine or placebo groups on the Autism Behavior Checklist, the Aberrant Behavior Checklist, the Vineland Adaptive Behavior scales, the PL-ADOS, or the CARS. Parent rating scales showed marked improvements, presumably due to expectations of benefits
  

Conclusion

What would be nice to know is whether epileptiform activity is a precursor to seizures, in the way that atopic dermatitis is often a precursor to developing asthma. Perhaps by treating epileptiform activity, some people could avoid ever developing epilepsy.
As I have pointed out before, I think that treating the E/I imbalance in autism with Bumetanide may well reduce the likelihood of later developing epilepsy.
In people with epileptiform activity but no seizures, treatment with AEDs can often normalize this activity within a few years.  Does the possible autism benefit correlate with this normalization? Or do you need to maintain the AED treatment even after the epileptiform activity has gone?
Do some people with autism, but no epileptiform activity, also demonstrate behavioral improvement on AEDs? I suspect some might, but it will depend on the AED.
Since medicine does not fully understand how most AEDs work and there are very many types of epilepsy, we cannot really expect concrete answers.
AEDs help many people with seizures, but a substantial number of people have seizures that do not respond to standard AEDs. Matching the AED to the person with seizures is more art than science and I would call it trial and error.
I did write a post a long time ago on the benefit of low dose AEDs in people with autism, but without seizures.  Given the many and varied effects of AEDs, it is not surprising that some people benefit.
The side effects of AEDs vary widely and some look more suitable than others for people that do not actually have seizures.
You might think based on the currently understanding of how Keppra works, it would not be helpful in someone that responds to Bumetanide.  But anecdotally people do respond to both, so most likely Keppra’s mode of action is not quite what we think it is.
So just like a neurologist applies trial and error to find an effective therapy for his patients, the same method can be applied to those with autism.
Clearly some people with autism do benefit from Valproate, others from Keppra and others from Lamotrigine. In my autism Polypill there is a little Potassium Bromide, the original AED from the 19th century.

If your neurologist does not want to treat your child's sub-clinical epileptiform activity, suggest he or she reads the literature and the very recent clinical trial using Keppra.  It is not guaranteed to improve autism, but you have a pretty good chance that one AED will help.