Study Shows Physical Therapy Can Help Children with Cerebral Palsy

Scientists at the University of Alabama at Birmingham have shown that a certain kind of rehabilitation can add gray matter to the brains of children, effectively remodeling their brains. The research involved therapy for children with cerebral palsy and the findings were published in the medical journal, Pediatrics.

The study was conducted over the course of three weeks and involved giving Constraint-Induced Movement therapy to 10 children with hemiparetic cerebral palsy, the type of cerebral palsy that affects one side of the body more than the other. The therapy involves constraining the dominant limb, forcing the child to use the impaired limb. MRIs were taken before and after the therapy and showed increases of gray matter in the hippocampus and the sensorimotor cortices.

The children in the study had a constraint induced by placing their good arm in a cast. However, the constraint is just one part of the therapy, which also involves continuation of the work at home, helping the child to perform daily activities using their impaired limb.

The researchers said that the increases in gray matter were correlated with improvement in motor skills, but it was too soon to determine which one caused the other. The researchers hope to answer that question in a future study.

Cerebral palsy is a common birth injury, affecting nearly 800,000 children and adults in the United States. Each year approximately 10,000 babies develop cerebral palsy.

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