In our discussion this morning we will deal with certain neurologic conditions of childhood. Such conditions differ from those in adults in that they affect a more or less rapidly developing complex organ. You need only be reminded of the rapid increase in brain weight and of the functional maturation attending and continuing after this weight gain to realize this fact. Our various developmental and intellectual examinations are attempts at measuring the latter.
The results of disease processes may show themselves by disturbing in various ways tissues already functionally active, as for instance by suppressing respiration in the newborn, or they may injure tissue not yet mature in which case they tend to distort or suppress development. As Dr. Crothers has long maintained, recovery from acute cerebral insults in infancy and childhood differs from recovery in adult life. In the latter, approximate return to the status quo ante is a satisfactory result. If, however, a 3 year old regains his attributes as a 3 year old and then fails to continue to develop he will be feebleminded at 6. Neurologic recovery in childhood therefore requires the resumption of orderly development, and can often not be determined for a period of years after an insult.
This is not the place to attempt an etiologic catalogue of cerebral disease in childhood. Suffice it to remind you that prenatal, natal and postnatal periods of life each has its own special developmental hazards. Because these affect the developing nervous system they tend in many instances to produce rather widespread changes resulting in the functional disabilities which we label mental retardation, cerebral palsy and epilepsy.
- Copyright © 1953 by the American Academy of Pediatrics