Cognitive and motor delays are linked to 'flat head syndrome' in young babies, says a new study.
In the study, researchers found that infants averaging six months of age who exhibited positional plagiocephaly (flat head syndrome) had lower scores than typical infants in observational tests used to evaluate cognitive and motor development.
Positional or deformational plagiocephaly may occur when external forces shape an infant's skull while it is still soft and malleable, such as extended time spent lying on a hard surface or in one position.
This is the first controlled study to suggest that babies who have flattened areas on the back of their heads during the first year of life may be at risk for developmental delay.
According to researchers, these findings suggest that babies with plagiocephaly should be screened early in life for possible motor and cognitive delays.
"Developmental plagiocephaly seems to be associated with early neurodevelopmental disadvantage, which was most evident when testing motor skills," said Matthew L. Speltz, chief of outpatient psychiatric services at Seattle Childrens Hospital and professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Washington School of Medicine.
"This suggests that babies with flat head syndrome should be screened and monitored for possible cognitive and motor delays.
"However, it's also important to note that our study examined babies at one particular point in time, so we cannot say with certainty whether these observations continue to hold true as these infants grow older.
"Our future studies will re-visit this population at 18 and 36 months of age, to see whether this association persists as these infants mature," he added.
The study has been published online on February 15 in Pediatrics.