About the Disorders

Microcephaly is a neurological disorder in which the circumference of the head is smaller than normal because the brain has not developed properly or has stopped growing. Approximately 2 percent of children born in the United States each year are diagnosed with microcephaly, more than are diagnosed with autism. Children with this disorder may have some degree of mental retardation although in 15 percent of the cases, the child will have normal intelligence and continue to develop and meet regular age-appropriate milestones. Early childhood intervention programs that involve physical, speech, and occupational therapists help to maximize abilities and minimize dysfunction. Medications are often used to control seizures, hyperactivity, and neuromuscular symptoms.

Lissencephaly, literally “smooth brain,” is a rare, gene-linked brain malformation characterized by the absence of normal folds in the cerebral cortex. Symptoms of the disorder may include unusual facial appearance, difficulty swallowing, failure to thrive, muscle spasms and severe psychomotor retardation. Seizures may be particularly severe but anticonvulsant medications can help.

The prognosis for children with lissencephaly depends on the degree of brain malformation.There is no cure for this condition, but children can show progress in their development over time. With a small number of exceptions, most people afflicted with lissencephaly do not survive childhood. Supportive care is usually needed to help with comfort, feeding, and nursing needs.

Microlissencephaly is a term that is applied to children who have both lissencephaly and microcephaly disorders.