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Reversible behavioural autistic-like regression: A manifestation of a special (new?) epileptic syndrome in a 28-month-old child. A 2-year longitudinal study .
A 28-month-old boy was referred for acute onset of abnormal head movements. History revealed an insidious progressive regression in behaviour and communication over several months. Head and shoulder 'spasms' with alteration of consciousness and on one occasion ictal laughter were seen. The electroencephalograph (EEG) showed repeated bursts of brief generalized polyspikes and spike-wave during the 'spasms', followed by flattening, a special pattern which never recurred after treatment. Review of family videos showed a single 'minor' identical seizure 6 months previously. Magnetic resonance imaging was normal. Clonazepam brought immediate cessation of seizures, normalization of the EEG and a parallel spectacular improvement in communication, mood and language. Follow-up over the next 10 months showed a new regression unaccompained by recognized seizures, although numerous seizures were discovered during the videotaped neuropsychological examination, when stereotyped subtle brief paroxysmal changes in posture and behaviour could be studied in slow motion and compared with the 'prototypical' initial ones. The EEG showed predominant rare left-sided fronto-temporal discharges. Clonazepam was changed to carbamazepin with marked improvement in behaviour, language and cognition which has been sustained up to the last control at 51 months. Videotaped home observations allowed the documentation of striking qualitative and quantitative variations in social interaction and play of autistic type in relation to the epileptic activity. We conclude that this child has a special characteristic epileptic syndrome with subtle motor and vegetative symptomatology associated with an insidious catastrophic 'autistic-like' regression which could be overlooked. The methods used to document such fluctuating epileptic behavioural manifestations are discussed.
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