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Brain. 2007 Oct;130(Pt 10):2646-60. Epub 2007 Sep 14.

Disorders of cognitive and affective development in cerebellar malformations.

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  • 1Scientific Institute E.Medea, Neurolinguistics Unit, San Vito al Tagliamento, PN, Italy.


Acquired cerebellar lesions in adults and children can lead to the development of a complex behavioural pattern termed 'Cerebellar Cognitive Affective Syndrome' (Schmahmann and Sherman, Brain, 1998; 121: 561-79), which is characterized by reduced cognitive efficiency associated with specific neuropsychological deficits (executive and visuospatial disorders), expressive language disorders (mild agrammatism and anomia) and affective disorders with blunting of affect. It is not known whether a symptomatological picture such as this can also be found in congenital cerebellar malformations. We studied the behavioural developmental profile of 27 patients including children and adults with congenital malformations confined to the cerebellum, the largest studied sample to date. Extensive clinical and neuropsychological investigations highlight the presence of a wide range of disorders supporting the important role played by the cerebellum in the acquisition of higher-order cognitive and affective skills. The type and extent of cerebral reorganization processes in the presence of malformative lesions are difficult to predict and may possibly account for the variability of clinical phenotypes. It is, therefore, more difficult to identify a syndromic picture defined as exactly as is the case with acquired lesions. However, the pattern of deficits that we document is in remarkable agreement with the general profile of the Cerebellar Cognitive Affective Syndrome. Malformations affecting the cerebellar vermis induce affective and social disorders and evolve towards more unfavourable pictures often associated with an autistic symptomatology. Malformations of cerebellar hemispheres are more frequently associated with selective neuropsychological deficits involving mainly executive functions and visuospatial and linguistic abilities. Motor deficits are generally less severe, and tend to improve slowly and progressively, in some cases reaching almost complete functionality. Finally, the overall favourable evolution with an onset of skills in advanced age in a consistent subset of subjects suggests that individual follow-ups should be performed in order to monitor the quality and stability of impairments and acquired abilities over time.

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