Head Circumference Measurement and Growth: Application to Neurodevelopment

  • Sara Jane Webb
  • Allison Ruppel Shell
  • Jason Cuomo
  • Guy Jensen
  • Curtis K. Deutsch


Whole brain volume and head size, estimated by the measurement of occipito-frontal circumference (OFC), have been implicated in a variety of developmental disorders. The goals of this chapter are to review the (a) relation of head growth to general neurodevelopment, (b) growth patterns in premature infants and relation to outcome, (c) overgrowth and its relation to neurodevelopmental disorders, and (d) relation between psychological syndromes and growth patterns. Additionally, this chapter (e) discusses head circumference size and growth in pathologic conditions, focusing on atypical development in overgrowth syndromes and pervasive developmental disorders such as autism. Last, this chapter (f) reviews some practical and technical issues involved in the use of head circumference data for clinical documentation and for research. In summary, increased HC and growth have been found to be associated with higher IQ in neurotypical populations. However, this relationship may more accurately be represented by a U-shaped function, with developmental disorders associated with high and low extremes. In addition, a number of genes have been found to be associated with macrocephaly, which may also contribute to developmental disabilities, including autism. Thus, head circumference may be a useful biological marker for assessing developmental risk and for stratification in genetic analysis.


Autism Spectrum Disorder Intellectual Disability Head Circumference Pervasive Developmental Disorder Rett Syndrome 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Autism spectrum disorder


Center for Disease Control


Cyclin-dependent kinase-like 5


Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders


Fragile X mental retardation 1


Fragile X mental retardation protein


Forkhead Box G1


Glial fibrillary acidic protein


Head circumference


Homeobox A1


Intelligence quotient


Methyl CpG binding protein 2


Mammalian target of rapamycin


Neurofibromatosis 1


National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey


Narcolepsy candidate region gene 1a


Nuclear receptor binding set domain protein 1


Orbitofrontal circumference


Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man;


Cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor 1c


Phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase


Proline-rich synapse-associated protein (Sh3 and multiple ankyrin repeat domains 3)


Phosphate and tensin homolog


Protein-tyrosine phosphatase, nonreceptor type 11


Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health


Tuberous sclerosis 1/2



The UW Autism Center of Excellence (NIH P50 HD055782; King/Webb), the Washington State Legislative Initiative: Developmental Disabilities Fellowship (Webb/Jensen) and NIH R42 DE01644 (Deutsch), NIH U24 MH081810 (Lajonchere), NIH P30 HD04147 (McIlvane; Core C: Deutsch), and the Simons Foundation (Deutsch) supported for writing this chapter. We thank all the families and scientists who contributed to the research cited in this review.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sara Jane Webb
    • 1
  • Allison Ruppel Shell
    • 2
  • Jason Cuomo
    • 2
    • 3
  • Guy Jensen
    • 1
  • Curtis K. Deutsch
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  2. 2.Psychobiology ProgramEunice Kennedy Shriver CenterWalthamUSA
  3. 3.Harvard UniversityCambridgeUSA

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