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What is schizencephaly?

Schizencephaly is an extremely rare developmental birth defect characterized by abnormal slits, or clefts, in the cerebral hemispheres of the brain. Babies with clefts in both hemispheres (bilateral clefts) commonly have:

  • Developmental delays
  • Delays in speech and language skills
  • Problems with brain-spinal cord communication

Individuals with clefts in only one hemisphere (unilateral clefts) are often paralyzed on one side of the body but may have average to near-average intelligence. Individuals with schizencephaly also may have:

  • An abnormally small head
  • Cognitive delay and impairment
  • Partial or complete paralysis
  • Poor muscle tone

Most will experience seizures. Some individuals may have an excessive accumulation of fluid in the brain called hydrocephalus.

Learn About Clinical Trials
Clinical trials are studies that allow us to learn more about disorders and improve care. They can help connect patients with new and upcoming treatment options.

How can I or my loved one help improve care for people with schizencephaly?

Schizencephaly is considered a rare disease, which often means there is not much information known about it. This is usually the case because doctors and researchers do not see many people with schizencephaly, which makes it hard to learn from them through observations or large studies.

Consider participating in a clinical trial so clinicians and scientists can learn more about schizencephaly and related disorders. Clinical research uses human volunteers to help researchers learn more about a disorder and perhaps find better ways to safely detect, treat, or prevent disease.

All types of volunteers are needed—those who are healthy or may have an illness or disease—of all different ages, sexes, races, and ethnicities to ensure that study results apply to as many people as possible, and that treatments will be safe and effective for everyone who will use them.

For information about participating in clinical research visit NIH Clinical Research Trials and You. Learn about clinical trials currently looking for people with schizencephaly at

Where can I find more information about schizencephaly?

Information may be available from the following resources:

Order publications from the NINDS Catalog
The NINDS Publication Catalog offers printed materials on neurological disorders for patients, health professionals, and the general public. All materials are free of charge, and a downloadable PDF version is also available for most publications.