2023 Undergraduate Research Showcase


The Effect of Cerebral Palsy and Preterm Birth on Sensorimotor and Cognitive Development

Document Type

Student Presentation

Presentation Date


Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Iryna Babik


Children with Cerebral Palsy (CP) and those born preterm often develop differently than typically developing children. White and gray matter lesions often lead to the reorganization of the brain, with atypical ipsilateral corticospinal connections being prevalent over more efficient contralateral connections, and with the corpus callosum, responsible for communication between the brain hemispheres, being smaller. 1,2 As a result of brain reorganization, children born preterm or with CP often experience deficits in motor and sensorimotor functioning, such as delays in postural control, atypical spontaneous movements, and difficulty with visuomanual and visuospatial processing. 3,4,5 These developmental differences impact both gross motor and fine motor development, producing difficulties with postural and motor control, mirror movements, lack of goal-directed movement, insufficient object exploration, and impaired bimanual coordination. 5,6 These deficits, in turn, may negatively affect the skills of drawing, design copying, and handwriting, while also reducing children’s opportunities to learn through object exploration. 5 Such limited learning opportunities may translate into deficits in cognitive development, language skills, executive function, and math skills. 5,7,8 Thus, negative biological factors associated with CP and preterm birth (e.g., early brain injury) may negatively affect future cognitive outcomes through early motor and sensorimotor development.


  1. Reid, L. B., Rose, S. E., & Boyd, R. N. (2015). Rehabilitation and neuroplasticity in children with unilateral cerebral palsy. Nature Reviews Neurology, 11(7), 390-400.
  2. Kułak, W., Sobaniec, W., Kubas, B., & Walecki, J. (2007). Corpus callosum size in children with spastic cerebral palsy: Relationship to clinical outcome. Journal of child neurology, 22(4), 371-374.
  3. Ferrari, F., Cioni, G., Einspieler, C., Roversi, M. F., Bos, A. F., Paolicelli, P. B., ... & Prechtl,H. F. (2002). Cramped synchronized general movements in preterm infants as an early marker for cerebral palsy. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, 156(5), 460-467.
  4. Hadders‐Algra, M. (2013). Typical and atypical development of reaching and postural control in infancy. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology, 55, 5-8.
  5. Babik, I. (2022). From hemispheric asymmetry through sensorimotor experiences to cognitive outcomes in children with cerebral palsy. Symmetry, 14(2), 345.
  6. Hung, Y. C., Charles, J., & Gordon, A. M. (2004). Bimanual coordination during a goal-directed task in children with hemiplegic cerebral palsy. Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, 46(11), 746-753.
  7. Jouen, F., & Molina, M. (2005). Exploration of the newborn's manual activity: A window onto early cognitive processes. Infant Behavior and Development, 28(3), 227-239.
  8. Zuccarini, M., Guarini, A., Savini, S., Iverson, J. M., Aureli, T., Alessandroni, R., Faldella, G., & Sansavini, A. (2017). Object exploration in extremely preterm infants between 6 and 9months and relation to cognitive and language development at 24 months. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 68, 140-152.

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