Fronto-cerebellar systems are associated with infant motor and adult executive functions in healthy adults but not in schizophrenia

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2006 Oct 17;103(42):15651-6. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0602639103. Epub 2006 Oct 6.


Delineating longitudinal relationships between early developmental markers, adult cognitive function, and adult brain structure could clarify the pathogenesis of neurodevelopmental disorders such as schizophrenia. We aimed to identify brain structural correlates of infant motor development (IMD) and adult executive function in nonpsychotic adults and to test for abnormal associations between these measures in people with schizophrenia. Representative samples of nonpsychotic adults (n = 93) and people with schizophrenia (n = 49) were drawn from the Northern Finland 1966 general population birth cohort. IMD was prospectively assessed at age 1 year; executive function testing and MRI were completed at age 33-35 years. We found that earlier motor development in infancy was correlated with superior executive function in nonpsychotic subjects. Earlier motor development was also normally associated with increased gray matter density in adult premotor cortex, striatum, and cerebellum and increased white matter density in frontal and parietal lobes. Adult executive function was normally associated with increased gray matter density in a fronto-cerebellar system that partially overlapped, but was not identical to, the gray matter regions normally associated with IMD. People with schizophrenia had relatively delayed IMD and impaired adult executive function in adulthood. Furthermore, they demonstrated no normative associations between fronto-cerebellar structure, IMD, or executive function. We conclude that frontal cortico-cerebellar systems correlated with adult executive function are anatomically related to systems associated with normal infant motor development. Disruption of this anatomical system may underlie both the early developmental and adult cognitive abnormalities in schizophrenia.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cerebellum / anatomy & histology
  • Cerebellum / physiology*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Finland
  • Frontal Lobe / anatomy & histology
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Motor Skills / physiology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Schizophrenia* / pathology
  • Schizophrenia* / physiopathology
  • Schizophrenic Psychology