The paper provides a survey of the state of the art of a new neurological diagnostic procedure in fetuses, preterm and term infant as well as in young infants. This method consists of a judgement of the movement quality of a particular type of spontaneous movements, the so-called general movements. At a very early age normal and abnormal general movement quality predicts the neurological outcome over 2 years, in particular cerebral palsy. The reliability of this method turned out to be very robust. Recent animal experiments on isolated parts of the central nervous system provide convincing evidence of endogenously generated neural activity. Similar neural mechanisms must provide the basis for spontaneous movements seen in the human at early ages. Those neural defects leading to qualitative changes of general movements are described in detail.
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