Hydrocephalus is a common neurological condition, the hallmark feature of which is an excess in production, or accumulation, of cerebrospinal fluid in the ventricles. Although it is associated with diffuse damage to paraventricular brain areas, patients are broadly typified by a particular pattern of cognitive impairments that include deficits in working memory, attention, and spatial abilities. There have, however, been relatively few neuropsychological accounts of the condition. Moreover, theories of the relationship between aetiology and impairment appear to have emerged in isolation of each other, and proffer fundamentally different accounts. In this primer, we aim to provide a comprehensive and contemporary overview of hydrocephalus for the neuropsychologist, covering cognitive sequelae and theoretical interpretations of their origins. We review clinical and neuropsychological assays of cognitive profiles, along with the few studies that have addressed more integrative behaviours. In particular, we explore the distinction between congenital or early-onset hydrocephalus with a normal-pressure variant that can be acquired later in life. The relationship between these two populations is a singularly interesting one in neuropsychology since it can allow for the examination of typical and atypical developmental trajectories, and their interaction with chronic and acute impairment, within the same broad neurological condition. We reflect on the ramifications of this for our subject and suggest avenues for future research.



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School of Psychology