Although considered a relatively new subspecialty, child neurology traces its origins to the Hippocratic descriptions of seizures and other neurologic conditions in children. Its true beginnings can be traced to the 1600s and 1700s with classical descriptions of chorea, hydrocephalus, spina bifida, and polio. It was, however, the remarkable clinical and scientific advances in neurology and pediatrics at the end of the 19th century that helped create its scientific foundation. Like other pediatric disciplines, child neurology evolved into a distinct clinical and scientific specialty early in the 20th century. Remarkable advances in the neurosciences, particularly in the fields of genetics, molecular biology, metabolism, immunology and nutrition, have greatly advanced our understanding of how the brain develops and responds to environmental influences. Advances in neuroimaging, electroencephalography, electromyography, muscle histology, biochemistry, and neuropharmacology have considerably improved our ability to evaluate and treat children with neurological disorders. These advances have allowed new and expanding approaches, unique to children, in the fields of epilepsy, neurodegenerative and neurometabolic disorders, nervous system infections, demyelinating diseases and tumors, neonatal neurological conditions, and neuromuscular diseases. They have also led to a better understanding of the neurobiologic basis of common problems such as global developmental delay, cerebral palsy, and autism. As remarkable as the advances have been in the past century, the accelerating pace of our understanding of the fundamental mechanisms responsible for brain development will lead to even greater achievements in the clinical care of children with neurological disorders in the 21st century.
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