How Does Cerebral Palsy Affect the Mind?

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How Does Cerebral Palsy Affect the Mind?
(The motor control system, as represented in "Gray's Anatomy.")

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The Brain in Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is caused by damage to the brain in utero, during childbirth, or during early childhood. The motor control centres of the cerebrum are affected by this damage, causing movement disorders and a host of other possible problems. Though the disease is non-progressive, bone and joint problems like arthritis and osteoporosis are common.

The cerebrum is the largest of the five sections of the brain, and it controls not only movement, but sensory processing, memory, learning, language and communication. Depending on the location and severity of the damage, patients with cerebral palsy can have many different symptoms involving any of these faculties.

Physical Impairments

Spastic cerebral palsy, the most common type, causes damage to the motor cortex. This part of the brain controls movement, and as such, sufferers of spastic cerebral palsy are likely to have seizures.

Cerebral palsy can also cause various sensory perception impairments. Cerebral palsy patients may have trouble recognising different textures and feeling touch or pain. They may also have problems with visual and auditory integration. This is not the same as having vision or hearing problems. Instead, it is a difficulty in associating words with objects that they see, or meaning with words that they hear.

Issues with Memory, Learning and Psychological Health

It is important to note that one third of cerebral palsy sufferers have no intellectual impairment. Of the remaining two thirds, one third are mildly impaired, (IQ 69 to 55), and one third are moderately to severely impaired.

Problems with visual and auditory integration, as described above, can obviously have a significant impact on learning. Exposure to music is thought to help with auditory integration.

Cerebral palsy sufferers are more likely than typical children to suffer from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. ADHD is marked by inattention, hyperactivity, impulsiveness or some combination of the three.

Cerebral palsy sufferers are also at increased risk for depression. It is unclear whether this may be due to the brain damage itself, or due the cerebral palsy patient's struggles with mind and body.

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