The cerebellum in cognitive processes: Supporting studies in children

Steinlin, Maja

In: The Cerebellum, 2007, vol. 6, no. 3, p. 237-241

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    Over the last decade, increasing evidence of cognitive functions of the cerebellum during development and learning processes could be ascertained. Posterior fossa malformations such as cerebellar hypoplasia or Joubert syndrome are known to be related to developmental problems in a marked to moderate extent. More detailed analyses reveal special deficits in attention, processing speed, visuospatial functions and language. A study about Dandy Walker syndrome states a relationship of abnormalities in vermis lobulation with developmental problems. Further lobulation or volume abnormalities of the cerebellum and/or vermis can be detected in disorders as fragile X syndrome, Downs's syndrome or William's syndrome. Neuropsychological studies reveal a relation of dyslexia and attention deficit disorder with cerebellar functions. These functional studies are supported by structural abnormalities in neuroimaging in these disorders. Acquired cerebellar or vermis atrophy was found in groups of children with developmental problems such as prenatal alcohol exposure or extreme prematurity. Also focal lesions during childhood or adolescence such as cerebellar tumour or stroke are related with neuropsychological abnormalities, which are most pronounced in visuo-spatial, language and memory functions. In addition, cerebellar atrophy was shown to be a bad prognostic factor considering cognitive outcome in children after brain trauma and leukaemia. In ataxia teleangiectasia, a neurodegenerative disorder affecting primarily the cerebellar cortex, a reduced verbal IQ and problems of judgment of duration are a hint of the importance of the cerebellum in cognition. In conclusion, the cerebellum seems to play an important role in many higher cognitive functions especially in learning. There is a suggestion that the earlier the incorrect influence the more pronounced the problems