Reduction in cerebellar volumes in preterm infants: relationship to white matter injury and neurodevelopment at two years of age

Pediatr Res. 2006 Jul;60(1):97-102. doi: 10.1203/01.pdr.0000220324.27597.f0. Epub 2006 May 11.


A substantial number of prematurely born infants will experience later neurodevelopmental challenges. Abnormal development of the cerebellum may be related to some of the impairments exhibited by preterm children. To test the hypothesis that cerebellar development is structurally impaired in preterm infants and associated with adverse outcomes, we studied 83 preterm infants and 13 term controls using volumetric magnetic resonance imaging techniques to obtain cerebellar volumes (CV) at term corrected and subsequent neurodevelopmental assessment at 2 y of age. The preterm group had smaller mean CV at term compared with the term control infants [mean (SD) CV, 22.0 (5.0) versus 23.5 (5.0) cc; mean difference (95% confidence interval), 1.5 (-1.5, 4.4)] although this did not reach statistical significance. Within the preterm group, there was evidence of a reduction in CV related to the presence of white matter injury (WMI) after adjusting for intracranial volume (ICV) [WMI grade 1 versus grade 2: mean (SD) CV, 23.6 (5.0) versus 21.6 (4.5); p = 0.01; WMI grade 1 versus grade 3 and 4: 23.6 (5.0) versus 20.8 (5.6); p = 0.07]. Within the preterm infants, there was no apparent relationship between CV at term and gestational age at birth after adjusting for ICV. At 2 y of age, CV showed a weak correlation with cognitive and motor development, although this was principally mediated by WMI. In conclusion, we found no evidence for a primary impairment in cerebellar development in relation to prematurity, although there was evidence for a secondary effect of cerebral WMI on cerebellar development independent of immaturity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aging / pathology
  • Aging / physiology
  • Cerebellum / anatomy & histology*
  • Cerebellum / growth & development
  • Cerebellum / pathology*
  • Child Development / physiology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature / growth & development*
  • Infant, Premature / physiology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • Nervous System / anatomy & histology
  • Nervous System / growth & development*
  • Nervous System / pathology
  • Organ Size
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology