For the first time ever, researchers believe there may be a link between the effects of epilepsy on the brain and some traits of autism, reports the Daily Mail. Adults with epilepsy demonstrate certain traits of autism and Asperger's syndrome, the paper says. Epileptic seizures disrupt the brain functions dealing with social interaction - including communication with others and repetitive interests - leading to some of the same social behaviors exhibited by people with autism spectrum disorders.

University of Bath researcher SallyAnn Wakeford told the Daily Mail that such traits in epileptics can sometimes go undiagnosed for many years, leading to difficulties in everyday life. "The social difficulties in epilepsy have been so far under-diagnosed and research has not uncovered any underlying theory to explain them," she said. "This new research links social difficulties to a deficit in somatic markers in the brain, explaining these characteristics in adults with epilepsy."

This effect is especially apparent in people with temporal lobe epilepsy, the Daily Mail adds, possible because epilepsy treatments are less effective in people with temporal lobe epilepsy, and the severity of the autistic traits seemingly increases in conjunction with seizure activity.

Wakeford says it is unknown whether the adults with epilepsy had a normal childhood development and only developed the autistic traits at the onset of their disease, or whether they had a predisposition toward autism before they started suffering epileptic seizures.

"However what is known is that the social components of autistic characteristics in adults with epilepsy may be explained by social cognitive differences, which have largely been unrecognized until now," Wakeford told the Daily Mail. She also believes the findings could lead to better treatments for both autistic and epileptic patients, and also access to better health services for adults with epilepsy.

Some are urging caution about the results, however. Mark Lever, head of the National Autistic Society, told the Daily Mail that no one should jump to conclusions about this suggested link between epilepsy and autism until the research has been reviewed. "For some time research has suggested an association between some forms of epilepsy with autism traits," he told the paper. "We would like to study this particular research in more detail when it gets published to see if it builds on our understanding. Autism is a very complex condition and is thought to be the result of many different underlying physical and genetic factors."