From congenial paralysis to post-early brain injury developmental condition: Where does cerebral palsy actually stand?

Ann Phys Rehabil Med. 2020 Oct;63(5):431-438. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2019 Aug 14.


Cerebral palsy (CP), an umbrella term for a developmental motor disorder caused by early brain injury (EBI)/interference, remains debated. In this essay, we present a narrative, beginning with the original anatomical-clinical description of the so-called paralysie congéniale (congenial paralysis) by the French psychiatrist Jean-Baptiste Cazauvieilh. We then discuss how the concept has evolved over the last 2 centuries. We aim to illustrate these ideas with the biopsychosocial model of health, especially in light of the current neuroscientific and sociological knowledge of human development. We endeavour to integrate 3 connected but distinct entities: (1) the EBI as a seminal turning point of the individual's story; (2) the clinical findings we call CP, when motor impairment and activity limitation related to post-EBI (or other early non-progressive brain interference) appears, and; (3) a post-EBI developmental condition that encompasses the overall consequences of an EBI. This framework should guide individual, familial and collective care discussions and research strategies beyond the scope of CP.

Keywords: Cerebral palsy; Disability and Health (ICF); Early brain injury; Human development; International Classification of Functioning,; Narrative medicine.

MeSH terms

  • Brain
  • Brain Injuries* / etiology
  • Cerebral Palsy* / etiology
  • Humans
  • International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health
  • Paralysis