The Study of Baby Steps Could Improve Treatment for Cerebral PalsyCerebral palsy is a disability related to the movement of the body that is caused by damage to the brain before birth, during birth, or shortly after birth. Doctors hope that studying baby steps can help to improve the treatment offered for cerebral palsy in the future. Doctors want to have a better understanding of the process from the stepping reflex to the progression of independent walking. Most babies begin to walk around the age of one, but it takes time to acquire balance and controlling leg muscles. The stepping reflex is a natural-born reflex in every baby, even newborns. That’s why, if you hold them with their feet planted on the floor, they will try to take a natural step.

What the research team is trying to find out

The research team behind this new study hails from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in the Netherlands and is being led by Doctor Nadia Dominici. The team is using brain scanning and sensor technologies to study children and how their brain and muscles develop for the ability to walk. The project is titled “Learn2Walk.” The study stems from a paper written by Dr. Dominici from 2011, in which she analyzed the development of 40 different babies, and recorded the results.

Dr. Dominici is looking for specific patterns with this new project. “What I’m looking at now is how and when these new (activation) patterns emerge, and the relationship between the muscles and the brain,” Dr. Dominici said. “We are looking at what happens in typically developing children and in those with CP.”

To do this, the team is specifically monitoring the legs, brain and muscle activity. The team attached movement sensors to the children’s legs, and analyzed recordings of brain and muscle activities. The team hopes that these two items will help produce data that shows how children develop the ability to walk and how children who suffer from mobility issues are affected. Therapies currently used for cerebral palsy will be investigated as part of the study. The team will look at how those therapies help reorganize the muscular or brain activity.

“We then plan to trial a novel rehabilitation therapy in young children before they develop serious gait problems which are more difficult to correct,” Dr. Dominici said. “Depending on the type of CP and the level of severity, we hope it will be possible to train children to improve their mobility and independence.”

Studying balance in children

Another part of the study will include how children handle balance issues. Children with CP often have problems with their ability to balance. Even though this is an underlying issue with cerebral palsy, it is not understood as to why it happens. This is due to no single area of the brain having to do with balance, and because there are multiple forms of cerebral palsy.

Did your child suffer an injury before, during, or after birth? It’s important for you to speak with an experienced attorney who handles birth injuries. Contact the team from Gainsberg Law P.C. in Chicago to discuss the cerebral palsy diagnosis your child received. Call the office at 312-600-9585 or schedule an appointment using our contact form.