Up to 40% of autistic individuals have epilepsy. The combination of autism and epilepsy significantly impacts upon quality of life as well as physical and mental health. The majority of studies to date have been retrospective investigations after a diagnosis of autism has been established. This project will use cutting-edge non-invasive EEG technology to measure brain development in infants with epilepsy in the family home, at several time-points over the first two years of life. By studying brain development prior to the emergence of autistic traits, the project aims to identify objective markers that predict later outcome, during a developmental period in which autistic behaviours cannot be reliably measured. Large existing datasets of infants with high familial likelihood for later autism diagnosis and typically developing infants will enable a test of convergent neural pathways. The findings from this research will pave the way for stratifying infants with epilepsy according to behavioural outcome and for informing and testing early intervention delivery.
The student will be trained in epilepsy, behavioural and clinical measures, EEG acquisition and analysis with young children, and longitudinal data analysis, to provide a unique interdisciplinary skillset.
Year 1: Focus on training and contribution to data acquisition with infants with epilepsy and typically developing infants (within ongoing cohort study)
Year 2: Complete data acquisition and quality control; ongoing analysis of behavioural and EEG data; test statistical approaches.
Year 3+4: Finalise analyses; dissemination and publication of findings.