Colpocephaly is a type of cephalic disorder and is caused by abnormal development of the nervous system. The information below begins by describing cephalic disorders and the human nervous system, followed by information specific to colpocephaly. What are cephalic disorders?

Cephalic disorders are congenital conditions that stem from damage to or the abnormal development of the budding nervous system. Cephalic is a term that means 'head.' Congenital means the disorder is present at, and usually before, birth.

Last updated on 05-01-20

What causes colpocephaly?

Researchers believe that the disorder results from some kind of disturbance in the fetal environment that occurs between the second and sixth months of pregnancy. The underlying causes of colpocephaly are multiple and diverse. Causes include chromosomal anomalies such as trisomy-8 mosaicism and trisomy-9 mosaicism; intrauterine infection such as toxoplasmosis; perinatal anoxic-ischemic encephalopathy; and maternal drug ingestion during early pregnancy, such as corticosteroids, salbutamol, and theophylline. In addition, a familial occurrence of colpocephaly has been noted in three reports. A genetic origin with an autosomal recessive or X-linked recessive inheritance was suggested in these familial cases.

Last updated on 05-01-20

What causes cephalic disorders?

Cephalic disorders are not necessarily caused by a single factor but may be influenced by hereditary or genetic conditions or by environmental exposures during pregnancy such as medication taken by the mother, maternal infection, or exposure to radiation. Some cephalic disorders occur when the cranial sutures (the fibrous joints that connect the bones of the skull) join prematurely. Most cephalic disorders are caused by a disturbance that occurs very early in the development of the fetal nervous system.

Last updated on 05-01-20

How does the human nervous system develop?

The human nervous system develops from a small, specialized plate of cells on the surface of the embryo. Early in development, this plate of cells forms the neural tube, a narrow sheath that closes between the third and fourth weeks of pregnancy to form the brain and spinal cord of the embryo. Four main processes are responsible for the development of the nervous system: cell proliferation, the process in which nerve cells divide to form new generations of cells; cell migration, the process in which nerve cells move from their place of origin to the place where they will remain for life; cell differentiation, the process during which cells acquire individual characteristics; and cell death, a natural process in which cells die. Damage to the developing nervous system is a major cause of chronic, disabling disorders and, sometimes, death in infants, children, and even adults. The degree to which damage to the developing nervous system harms the mind and body varies enormously.

Last updated on 05-01-20

Who can I contact for additional information on colpocephaly?

To read more about colpocephaly and cephalic disorders, please visit the following information pages developed by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH):

You can also contact NINDS for information on colpocephaly.

NIH Neurological Institute
P.O. Box 5801
Bethesda, MD 20824
Toll-free: 800-352-9424
Phone: 301-496-5751
TTY: 301-468-5981
E-mail form:
Web site:

Last updated on 05-01-20

What is colpocephaly?

Colpocephaly is a congenital brain abnormality in which the occipital horns - the posterior or rear portion of the lateral ventricles (cavities) of the brain - are larger than normal because white matter in the posterior cerebrum has failed to develop or thicken.

Last updated on 05-01-20

Is colpocephaly rare?

Yes. While we are not aware of incidence estimates for colpocephaly, since the first description in 1940, 50 cases have been reported in the medical literature.

Last updated on 05-01-20

What research is being done to help families and individuals with colpocephaly and other cephalic disorders?

Scientists are rapidly learning how harmful insults at various stages of pregnancy can lead to developmental disorders. They are also concentrating their efforts on understanding the complex processes responsible for normal early development of the brain and nervous system and how the disruption of any of these processes results in congenital anomalies such as cephalic disorders. Understanding how genes control brain cell migration, proliferation, differentiation, and death, and how radiation, drugs, toxins, infections, and other factors disrupt these processes will aid in preventing many congenital neurological disorders. In addition, researchers are examining the mechanisms involved in neurulation - the process of forming the neural tube. These studies will improve our understanding of this process and give insight into how the process can go awry and cause devastating congenital disorders. Investigators are also analyzing genes and gene products necessary for human brain development to achieve a better understanding of normal brain development in humans.

Last updated on 05-01-20

What is the typical prognosis for individuals with colpocephaly?

Colpocephaly has been found in association with several other central nervous system malformations. The prognosis for individuals with colpocephaly depends on the severity of the associated conditions and the degree of abnormal brain development. Associated conditions and malformations include; agenesis of corpus callosum, neuronal migration disorders (lissencephaly, pachygyria), schizencephaly, microgyria, macrogyria, enlargement of cisterna magna, cerebellar atrophy, optic nerve hypoplasia, chorioretinal coloboma, microcephaly, meningomyelocele, and hydrocephalus. Other associated anomalies included micrognathia, hypoplastic nails, simian creases, Pierre- Robin syndrome, and neurofibromatosis.

Last updated on 05-01-20

How might colpocephaly be treated?

There is no definitive treatment for colpocephaly. Anticonvulsant medications are often prescribed to prevent seizures, and doctors rely on exercise therapies and orthopedic appliances to reduce shrinkage or shortening of muscles.

Last updated on 05-01-20

Name: Birth Defect Research for Children, Inc. 976 Lake Baldwin Lane, Suite 104
Orlando, FL, 32814, United States
Phone: +1-407-895-0802 Email: Url:

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