Cerebral atrophy, or brain shrinkage, can result from traumatic brain injuries, strokes, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy or Alzheimerﾒs disease, explains the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. There are also numerous infectious diseases, including neurosyphilis, AIDS and encephalitis, that can result in brain shrinkage.
When brain shrinkage occurs, brain neurons and the connections joining those neurons decrease in number, states the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. In cases of generalized cerebral atrophy, the entire brain loses volume, while focal cerebral atrophy occurs when only a specific portion of the brain shrinks. The types of functioning affected in an individual with focal cerebral atrophy depend on the area of the brain where the shrinkage occurs.
Dementia, seizures and aphasias are common consequences of brain shrinkage, the NINDS explains. This condition involves progressive memory loss and a decline in cognitive functioning that is severe enough to have a negative impact on the person's work or social abilities. People with dementia may find it difficult to learn new concepts, have trouble with organization or have a tendency to become disoriented. Aphasias are disorders that cause individuals to have difficulty understanding or using language. One type of aphasia called expressive aphasia has symptoms such as unusual word choices, trouble completing sentences and the use of disjointed clauses.