Gray Matter in Brains of Children with Cerebral Palsy ‘Significantly’ Smaller, Study Finds

Gray Matter in Brains of Children with Cerebral Palsy ‘Significantly’ Smaller, Study Finds

The volume of brain tissue in children with cerebral palsy is significantly reduced compared to children without the disease, especially with regard to brain gray matter, a new study from researchers in Poland reports, and suggests the loss in gray matter volume is linked to neuronal degeneration and damage.

The study, Volumetric Magnetic Resonance Imaging Study of Brain and Cerebellum in Children with Cerebral Palsy, appeared on July 3 in the journal BioMed Research International.

Although brain imagining techniques are available to examine brain size in children with cerebral palsy (CP), few studies have utilized these methods.

Researchers, led by Piotr Kulak of the Department of Pediatric Radiology, Medical University of Białystok, studied the brains of 82 children with cerebral palsy (CP) and 90 age- and sex-matched healthy children, using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

They found differences in several brain characteristics between the two groups. Children with CP were more likely to have periventricular leukomalacia, a condition marked by bleeding on the brain around the ventricles (the space through which cerebral spinal fluid flows). These children also more likely to have hydrocephaly, a condition caused by the blockage and build-up of cerebral spinal fluid.

Overall, the total brain volume was substantially smaller in children with CP, including a region that processes movement, known as the cerebellum, when compared to the brains of healthy children.

The scientists found positive correlations between older age of all children and the amount of the total brain tissue. Delayed speech development was related to the width of the third ventricle, which can indicate a smaller amount of brain tissue. Larger ventricles also corresponded with movement disability and intellectual impairment in the children with CP.

“The total brain, cerebellum, and grey matter volumes were significantly reduced in children with cerebral palsy,” the researchers concluded. “The grey matter volume reductions in the cerebral palsy patients suggest neuronal degeneration and damage. And ventricular enlargement was found to be significantly correlated with motor dysfunction and both speech and mental retardation in these patients. Our findings offer a deeper insight into the pathophysiological mechanisms of cerebral palsy.”

Based on this study, the authors suggest that a more frequent use of brain MRIs in children with CP might be helpful to establish a prognosis, to diagnose clinical problems such as hydrocephaly, and to determine adequate rehabilitation programs for them.