Cerebral Palsy

cerebral palsy (sərē´brəl pôl´zē), disability caused by brain damage before or during birth or in the first years, resulting in a loss of voluntary muscular control and coordination. Although the exact cause is unknown, apparent predisposing factors include disease (e.g., rubella, genital herpes simplex), very low infant birthweight (less than 3.3 lb [1.5 kg]), and injury or physical abuse. Maternal smoking, alcohol consumption, and ingestion of certain drugs can also contribute. Most cases are associated with prenatal problems; about 10% of the cases are thought to be due to oxygen deficiency during the birth process. The severity of the affliction is dependent on the extent of the brain damage. Those with mild cases may have only a few affected muscles, while severe cases can result in total loss of coordination or paralysis.

There are many different forms of the disability, each caused by damage to a different area of the brain. The spastic type, accounting for over half of the cases, results from damage to the motor areas of the cerebral cortex and causes the affected muscles to be contracted and overresponsive to stimuli. Athetoid cerebral palsy, caused by damage to the basal ganglia, results in continual, involuntary writhing movements. Choreic cerebral palsy is characterized by jerking, flailing movements. Ataxic cerebral palsy, involving the cerebellum, causes either an impaired sense of balance or a lack of coordinated movements. In addition to these types, which may occur singly or together, emotional, visual, and hearing impairments and convulsive seizures may be present. Some of those affected have a degree of mental retardation, but in many the intellect is unimpaired.

There is no cure for the disorder. Treatment usually includes physical, occupational, and speech therapy, and sometimes includes biofeedback and muscle relaxants. Sometimes appliances such as braces and surgery are helpful. Measures that appear to help decrease the incidence of cerebral palsy include maternal immunization against rubella, maternal abstention from smoking and alcohol consumption, magnesium sulfate given in premature labor, treatment for Rh incompatibility (see blood groups), and treatment of hyperbilirubinemia (jaundice) in the newborn.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2013, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Academic and Personality Characteristics of Gifted Students with Cerebral Palsy: A Multiple Case Study
Willard-Holt, Colleen.
Exceptional Children, Vol. 65, No. 1, Fall 1998
Coping and Adaptation in Families of Children with Cerebral Palsy
Shu-Li, Lin.
Exceptional Children, Vol. 66, No. 2, Winter 2000
Developmental Behavioral Neuroscience
Megan R. Gunnar; Charles A. Nelson; Minnesota Symposium on Child Psychology.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1992
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of Cerebral Palsy begins on p. 62
Motor Representation and Control
M. Jeannerod.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1990
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 21 "Basic Perceptuo - Motor Dysfuntions in Cerebral Palsy"
Threats to Optimal Development: Integrating Biological, Psychological, and Social Risk Factors
Charles A. Nelson.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1994
Librarian’s tip: "Cerebral Palsy and Perinatal Brain Injury" begins on p. 57
Children, Politics, and Medicare: Experiences in a Canadian Province
Geoffrey C. Robinson; George R. F. Elliot.
University of Calgary Press, 1993
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 15 "Services for Children with Cerebral Palsy"
Making a Place for Kids with Disabilities
Dale Borman Fink.
Praeger Publishers, 2000
Exceptional Children
Florence L. Goodenough; Lois M. Rynkiewicz.
Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1956
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 26 "The Child with Cerebral Palsy: The Brain-Damaged Child"
Education of Exceptional Children and Youth
William Cruickshank; G. Orville Johnson.
Prentice-Hall, 1958
Librarian’s tip: "Cerebral Palsy" begins on p. 401 and "Cogenital Defects" begins on p. 430
Psychological Problems in Mental Deficiency
Seymour B. Sarason.
Harper, 1953 (2nd edition)
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 7 "Cerebral Palsy"
Disability in Adolescence
Bernie Spain; Elizabeth M. Anderson; Lynda Clarke.
Methuen, 1982
Galileo's Revenge: Junk Science in the Courtroom
Peter W. Huber.
Basic Books, 1993
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 5 "Gadgets and Knives Cashing in on Magical Cures"
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