Sex and the pathogenesis of cerebral palsy

Michael V. Johnston, Henrik Hagberg

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

192 Scopus citations


Cerebral palsy (CP) and related developmental disorders are more common in males than in females, but the reasons for this disparity are uncertain. Males born very preterm also appear to be more vulnerable to white matter injury and intraventricular hemorrhage than females. Experimental studies in adult animals and data from adult patients with stroke indicate that sex hormones such as estrogens provide protection against hypoxic-ischemic injury, and the neonatal brain is also influenced by these hormones. However, hormonal influences on the fetus and neonates are substantially different from those on adults. Recent data from neonatal rodents subjected to hypoxia-ischemia also demonstrate differences between males and females. Knockout of the gene for poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP-1), a major step in the cascade of injury, protected male but not female mouse pups from hypoxic-ischemic injury. Other reports demonstrated major differences between male and female neurons grown separately in cell culture, suggesting that sex differences in the fetal or neonatal period result from intrinsic differences in cell death pathways. This new information indicates that there are important neurobiological differences between males and females with respect to their response to brain injuries. This information is relevant to understanding the pathogenesis of CP as well as to the design of future clinical trials of potential neuroprotective strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)74-78
Number of pages5
JournalDevelopmental medicine and child neurology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Clinical Neurology


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