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Brain. 2001 Jan;124(Pt 1):60-6.

Cognitive and motor function and the size of the cerebellum in adolescents born very pre-term.

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  • 1Institute of Psychiatry, King's College, London, UK.


Individuals born before 33 weeks' gestation are at risk of brain lesions, which have the potential to disrupt subsequent neurodevelopment. As a result they manifest an increased incidence of neuromotor signs and cognitive deficits, which can still be detected in adolescence. The cerebellum is known to be involved in both the co-ordination of movement and in cognitive processes. We therefore set out to establish whether cognitive and motor impairments in adolescents born very pre-term are associated with abnormalities of the cerebellum as revealed by volumetric analysis of brain MRI scans. The volume of the whole cerebellum was determined manually using a PC-based Cavalieri procedure in 67 adolescents born very pre-term and 50 age-matched, full-term born controls. Cognitive and neurological assessments were performed at 1, 4, 8 and 14-15 years of age as part of the long-term follow-up of the pre-term subjects. The pre-term-born subjects had significantly reduced cerebellar volume compared with term-born controls (P<0.001). This difference was still present after controlling for potential confounders. There was no association between cerebellar volume and motor neurological signs. However, there were significant associations between cerebellar volume and several cognitive test scores, in particular the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-Revised, the Kaufman Assessment Battery for Children and the Schonnel reading age. This provides further evidence implicating the cerebellum in cognition and suggests that cerebellar abnormalities may underlie some of the cognitive deficits found in individuals born very pre-term.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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