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Welcome to 2 minute neuroscience, where I explain neuroscience topics in 2 minutes or
less.
In this installment I will discuss hydrocephalus.
Hydrocephalus is a condition that involves the build-up of cerebrospinal fluid, or CSF,
a fluid that is produced in the cavities of the brain known as the ventricles.
CSF flows through and around the brain and spinal cord and is eventually absorbed into
the bloodstream.
It serves a number of functions including acting as a cushion, delivering nutrients,
and removing harmful substances.
Hydrocephalus can occur due to excess production of CSF, impaired reabsorption of CSF into
the bloodstream, or a blockage in the ventricular system that causes CSF to accumulate.
Hydrocephalus is mainly classified as either communicating or non-communicating.
Communicating hydrocephalus does not involve a blockage in the ventricular system.
Non-communicating hydrocephalus involves a blockage, and is the most common cause of
hydrocephalus.
Hydrocephalus can be present at birth or it can be acquired later in life.
When CSF accumulates in the ventricles, this causes the brain to become enlarged.
The increased brain size can lead to increased pressure in the skull, which can lead to the
compression of the brain and a variety of symptoms, some of which may be life threatening.
When hydrocephalus occurs in infants, their skull is more capable of expanding, so their
heads often become enlarged but there may be more time before the onset of other symptoms.
In adults, however, the skull does not generally expand, and symptoms may appear more quickly.
Treatment for hydrocephalus involves an attempt to drain the excess CSF, and often this involves
using a cerebral shunt.
A cerebral shunt is a plastic tube connected to a catheter.
One end of the catheter is placed at the site of increased pressure in the ventricles and
the other is often placed in the lining of the abdominal cavity.
CSF is diverted to the abdominal cavity, where it can safely drain.