Cerebral Palsy is a group of incurable brain disorders that affects a person’s body movement, posture, and muscle coordination. It affects about 1 in 323 children in the US and is the most common motor disability in children. No one ‘catches’ Cerebral Palsy like one might catch a cold- it occurs when parts of the developing brain of a fetus, baby, or young child is damaged. The damage may be a result of different things like head trauma, low birth weight, infection, or problems with blood or oxygen flow to the brain. Sometimes people with Cerebral Palsy might have problems with feeding themselves, hearing, vision, speech, learning disabilities, and seizures.
Researchers have found strong support for a root cause of Cerebral Palsy- maternal smoking. By observing the behaviors of mouse pups after their mothers were exposed to smoke before and during pregnancy, researchers found that the smoke affected the part of the cell responsible for energy, or the mitochondria. The mitochondria are then unable to get rid of toxic chemical buildup in the cells. The mouse pups are more likely to have clumsy coordination, weakened muscles, and poor memory. In order to lower their babies’ risk of developing Cerebral Palsy, mothers need to quit smoking long before they plan to get pregnant. Other studies have found that smoking decreases blood flow to parts of the placenta, hurting a fetus’ brain.
Are you interested in learning more about Cerebral Palsy? This Khan Academy video is a great introduction.