Biol Psychiatry 2009 Dec 5;66(12):1100-6. Epub 2009 Aug 5.
University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin 53706, USA.
Background: The cerebellum is a brain region recognized primarily in the coordination of movement and related accessory motor functions. In addition, emerging evidence implicates the cerebellum in cognitive processes and suggests that this brain region might be subject to experience-dependent changes in structure. Therefore, the aim of this study was to evaluate the role of early environmental deprivation in the maturation of the cerebellum and aspects of cognitive development.
Methods: Structural magnetic resonance imaging volumes of 12 cerebellar sub-regions from 31 previously neglected and 30 typically developing children were compared with subjects' corresponding neuropsychological test scores.
Results: Neglected children had smaller volume of the superior-posterior cerebellar lobes. Moreover, superior-posterior lobe volume was found to mediate neuropsychological test performance differences between groups, with larger volumes yielding better outcomes on tests of memory and planning.
Conclusions: These data support the importance of experience-dependent changes in cerebellar structure and highlight the role of the cerebellum in higher cognitive functions.