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The Minimal Brain Dysfunction Myth

Barton D. Schmitt, MD
Am J Dis Child. 1975;129(11):1313-1318. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1975.02120480037009.
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Minimal brain dysfunction (MBD) is a diagnostic term. It is used synonymously with minimal cerebral dysfunction and minimal brain damage. It implies verification of an organic cause. When a symptom is attributed to MBD, the symptom is assumed to be secondary to a cerebral structural abnormality resulting from trauma, infection, hypoxia, or other central nervous system (CNS) disease.1 At least 100 clinical manifestations are listed under MBD, including dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, visual perception problems, dysarthria, hyperactivity, poor attention span, temper tantrums, aggression, clumsiness, and vague spells. By definition, the children have to be of normal intelligence. The prevalence of the MBD syndrome is allegedly greater than any other chronic disease. It has been estimated that 10% to 20% of the total population is affected.

The current problem with the MBD syndrome is that it has become an all-encompassing, wastebasket diagnosis for any child who does not quite conform to


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