"Cerebral palsy is a major neurodevelopmental disorder, which disrupts movement control, and it occurs in one in 400 children," said Alastair MacLennan from the Australian Collaborative Cerebral Palsy Research Group based at University of Adelaide.

"While we have long suspected that genes may play a role in the development of cerebral palsy, it wasn't until our research group mapped the DNA from cerebral palsy families that we could show genetic mutations are the likely cause of the condition in at least 14 percent of cases," he added.

Prior to this research it was believed that as little as one percent of cerebral palsy cases had a genetic cause. It has long been the belief that cerebral palsy occurs when a child experiences a lack of oxygen during pregnancy or at birth.

Because cerebral palsy is at least partly genetic in origin, there will be significant changes in the approach to diagnosis, management and treatment of the condition, professor Jozef Gecz from the University of Adelaide pointed out.

"Our research will lead to early diagnosis of some cerebral palsies and aid preventative genetic techniques in the future" he added. This dramatic research finding will change how people think about cerebral palsy, University of Adelaide PhD student and lead author Gai McMichael noted.

The findings appeared in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.


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