NINDS Microcephaly Information Page: NINDS


Article title: NINDS Microcephaly Information Page: NINDS
Main condition: Microcephaly
Conditions: Microcephaly
What is Microcephaly?
Microcephaly is a rare, neurological disorder in which the circumference of the head is smaller than the average for the age and gender of the infant or child. gene exstart profile Microcephaly may be congenital (present at birth) or it may develop in the first few years of life. The disorder may stem from a wide variety of conditions that cause abnormal growth of the brain, and is often a symptom of syndromes associated with chromosomal abnormalities. Infants with microcephaly are born with either a normal or reduced head size. Subsequently the head fails to grow while the face continues to develop at a normal rate, producing a child with a small head, a large face, a receding forehead, and a loose, often wrinkled scalp. As the child grows older, the smallness of the skull becomes more obvious, although the entire body also is often underweight and dwarfed. Development of motor functions and speech may be delayed. Hyperactivity and mental retardation are common occurrences, although the degree of each varies. Convulsions may also occur. Motor ability varies, ranging from clumsiness to spastic quadriplegia.

Is there any treatment?
Generally there is no specific treatment for microcephaly. Treatment is symptomatic and supportive. A serious attempt should be made to identify associated congential anomalies and to determine a specific cause of the disorder.

What is the prognosis?
In general, life expectancy for individuals with microcephaly is low and the prognosis for normal brain function is poor. The prognosis varies depending on the presence of associated abnormalities.

What research is being done?
The NINDS conducts and supports a wide range of studies that explore the complex mechanisms of normal brain development. The knowledge gained from these fundamental studies provides the foundation for understanding how this process can go awry and, thus, offers hope for new means to treat and prevent developmental brain disorders, including microcephaly.

Selected references

Badawi, N, Kurinczuk, J, Blair, E, Keogh, J, and Stanley, F.
Early Prediction of the Development of Microcephaly After Hypoxic-ischemic Encephalopathy in the Full-Term Newborn. (Letter) Pediatrics, 97:1; 151-152 (January 1996).

Leviton, A, Greene, M, and Allred, E.
Maternal Metabolic Control and Risk of Microcephaly Among Infants of Diabetic Mothers. Diabetes Care, 18:2; 166-169 (1995).

Asbury, A, et. al. (eds).
Diseases of the Nervous System: Clinical Neurobiology. vol. I, 2nd edition, W.B. Saunders Co., Philadelphia, pp. 618-621 (1992).

Dorman, C.
Microcephaly and Intelligence. Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, 33; 267-269 (1991).

Cowie, V.
Microcephaly: A Review of Genetic Implications in its Causation. Journal of Mental Deficiency Research, 31; 229-233 (1987).

Goodman, R, and Gorlin R.
The Malformed Infant and Child: An Illustrated Guide. Oxford University Press, New York, pp. 72-73 (1983).


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March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation
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National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities
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Tel: 202-884-8200 800-695-0285
Fax: 202-884-8441

National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)
National Institutes of Health
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Bethesda, MD 20892-2425
Tel: 301-496-5133 800-370-2943

This fact sheet is in the public domain. You may copy it.Provided by:
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, MD 20892

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