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What Is the Connection between Cerebral Palsy and Brain Damage?

By Jami Yontz
Updated May 17, 2024
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Cerebral palsy and brain damage are connected in the way that all cerebral palsy cases occur because of some type of brain damage, injury, or trauma to the cerebrum or the neurological pathways between the cerebrum and the cerebellum. This type of brain damage may occur in the womb, as a result of a medical condition, or during an accident. Cerebral palsy is a permanent, lifelong condition.

The cerebrum is the largest part of the brain, and contains the limbic system and cerebral cortex. Motor controls, cognitive thinking, language and speech, sensory controls, and vision are all functions controlled by these areas of the brain. Cerebral palsy usually affects the motor skills portion of the brain that is responsible for posture as well as muscle and limb movement. This causes problems with walking and muscle coordination, eating, and sitting, and it can make the person’s muscles very stiff or floppy. The cerebrum is also involved in many other body processes, including breathing and digestion, and cerebral palsy and brain damage can cause many other serious medical conditions to develop, such as seizures or respiratory disorders.

Cerebral palsy most often affects a fetus or child under two years old. Oxygen deprivation, also know as hypoxia, during birth is one of the most common cerebral palsy and brain damage causes. This can occur during a breech delivery or if the fetal heart rate decreases to the point where the brain is not receiving enough oxygen from the blood supply. Certain diseases or infection present during pregnancy may also increase the risk that cerebral palsy and brain damage could occur. Rhesus incompatibility, also known as Rh disease, can cause severe jaundice in a newborn, leading to brain damage.

Cerebral palsy and brain damage could also be the result of abnormal growth of the cerebrum or the connections between the cerebrum and the cerebellum during a fetus’ development in the womb. The condition is a result of a abnormally developed brain and not due to a genetic mutation or hereditary condition. In the instance of premature newborns, the brain is not given the time to fully develop.

An injury to the head caused by a fall or motor vehicle accident can also cause cerebral palsy and brain damage to occur in young children. Stoke, exposure to toxins, or meningitis could injure the cerebrum or cerebellum, damaging the child’s ability to develop motor skills. Infants and children who have trouble meeting early childhood development milestones should be seen by a pediatrician to determine if the child could have cerebral palsy.

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