Progressive degeneration of the cerebral cortex in infancy
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The clinical and pathological features of a case with primary progressive degeneration of the cerebral cortex are presented. Two siblings had nearly identical clinical histories. All three children were born microcephalic and they died at the age of 7, 10 and 18 months, respectively. All showed progressive mental and motor deterioration. Myoclonus and attacks of opisthotonus were prominent features. Postmortem examination was performed in the third child, who died at the age of 10 months. The brain weight was 310 g. The cerebral cortex was severely atrophic, with extensive laminar neuronal loss. The cerebellum was normal. The optic tracts were atrophic. Neuronal loss was observed also in a few other systems but their relation to the primary disease is uncertain. The basal ganglia were normal and the hippocampus showed only slight nerve cell loss.
The case is considered to belong to a small group of cases with primary progressive cortical degeneration described by Laurence and Cavanagh (1968). This group should be distinguished from cases with secondary cortical degeneration caused by anoxic damage from recurrent epileptic attacks. The primary cortical degeneration may start shortly before birth, or after a brief periood of normal postnatal development. A positive family history has been reported in most cases, suggesting an inherited metabolic defect as cause of the disease.
Key wordsMetabolic Encephalopathy Cerebral Degeneration Alpers' Disease
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