There are roughly as many autistic boys who have epilepsy as there are girls, according to a new meta-analysis.
The overall ratio of boys to girls among children diagnosed with autism is 3-to-1. Scientists have suggested many theories for this sex bias: that girls are partially protected from mutations that cause the condition, for example.
The new work suggests seizure disorders override this protection.
“This could be because the usual female protection against neurodevelopmental disorders is overcome when there is a chronic brain illness,” says co-lead researcher Eric Taylor, emeritus professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at King’s College London.
Another possibility is that because girls with epilepsy see doctors often, they are more likely to be diagnosed with autism than other autistic girls.