Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format

Integrated Article


Master of Science




Sandrine de Ribaupierre


Ventricle dilatation caused by infantile hydrocephalus may result in extensive damage of the posterior cortex (parietal and occipital lobes). We hypothesize that pathological changes in the development of the posterior cortex can be linked to non-verbal learning disabilities in children with previous infantile hydrocephalus. This case study will investigate the neurodevelopmental outcomes of 3 treated hydrocephalus patients, when compared to a group of healthy control children (n = 12). Within the hydrocephalus group, patients displayed differences in non-verbal test performance as well as parietal brain activation during an fMRI number comparison task. We associated these differences with clinical variables such as prematurity of birth, age of onset, and timing of treatment. The methodology and findings of this case study offers new possibilities for future research of using fMRI in conjunction with behavioural assessments as a prognostic tool for studying the neurodevelopmental outcomes of pediatric patient populations

Summary for Lay Audience

Infantile hydrocephalus is a medical condition which involves the inadequate drainage of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), a clear fluid that circulates within the brain and spinal cord and can occur during the first two years of life. There can be multiple causes of infantile hydrocephalus, such as genetic malformations, premature birth that may lead to bleeding in the brain, and severe bacterial infections of the brain such as meningitis. The buildup of CSF within the skull, can result in an increase in pressure and damage to surrounding brain areas. The compression of the developing brain may lead to negative outcomes in behavior and cognition, as well as the emergence of various developmental disabilities during childhood. Due to the progression pattern of hydrocephalus, areas of the brain located towards the back (posterior brain areas) will experience greater damage and compression when compared to brain areas towards the front (anterior brain areas). This current study will examine whether changes in development of the posterior brain will lead to deficits in non-verbal learning, their associated cognitive outputs. Non-verbal learning includes mathematics, visual processing, and spatial orientation skills. The current study involves the cases of 3 treated hydrocephalus patients and a group of healthy control children to assess and compare their behavioural outcomes. Functional MRI (fMRI) was used to measure brain activity in parietal cortex during a number comparison task, children played during the MRI scan. Differences in the behavioural test scores and brain activity were found among the patients, we associated these differences to various clinical and socioeconomic variables. The experimental design and findings of this study offer new avenues for future research into using fMRI with behavioural tests as a tool for studying the developmental outcomes for pediatric patient populations such as hydrocephalus.