Lissencephaly, which literally means ''smooth brain'', is a rare brain formation disorder caused by defective neuronal migration during the 12th to 24th weeks of gestation, resulting in a lack of development of brain folds (gyri) and grooves (sulci).
It is a form of cephalic disorder. Terms such as 'agyria' (no gyri) or 'pachygyria' (broad gyri) are used to describe the appearance of the surface of the brain.
Children with lissencephaly are severely neurologically impaired and often die within several months of birth.
Causes of lissencephaly can include viral infections of the uterus or the fetus during the first trimester, or insufficient blood supply to the fetal brain early in pregnancy.
There are also a number of genetic causes of lissencephaly, including mutation of the reelin gene (on chromosome 7), as well as other genes on the X chromosome and on chromosome 17.
Genetic counseling is usually offered if there is a risk of lissencephaly, coupled with genetic testing.
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Last Updated: Feb 16, 2011