Background: Until recently, neurosurgeons eagerly removed cerebellar lesions without consideration of future cognitive impairment that might be caused by the resection. In children, transient cerebellar mutism after resection has lead to a diminished use of midline approaches and vermis transection, as well as reduced retraction of the cerebellar hemispheres. The role of the cerebellum in higher cognitive functions beyond coordination and motor control has recently attracted significant interest in the scientific community, and might change the neurosurgical approach to these lesions. The aim of this study was to investigate the specific effects of cerebellar lesions on memory, and to assess a possible lateralisation effect.
Methods: We studied 16 patients diagnosed with a cerebellar lesion, from January 1997 to April 2005, in the "Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois (CHUV)", Lausanne, Switzerland. Different neuropsychological tests assessing short term and anterograde memory, verbal and visuo-spatial modalities were performed pre-operatively.
Results: Severe memory deficits in at least one modality were identified in a majority (81%) of patients with cerebellar lesions. Only 1 patient (6%) had no memory deficit. In our series lateralisation of the lesion did not lead to a significant difference in verbal or visuo-spatial memory deficits.
Findings: These findings are consistent with findings in the literature concerning memory deficits in isolated cerebellar lesions. These can be explained by anatomical pathways. However, the cross-lateralisation theory cannot be demonstrated in our series. The high percentage of patients with a cerebellar lesion who demonstrate memory deficits should lead us to assess memory in all patients with cerebellar lesions.