The cerebellar mutism syndrome and its relation to cerebellar cognitive function and the cerebellar cognitive affective disorder

Dev Disabil Res Rev. 2008;14(3):221-8. doi: 10.1002/ddrr.25.


The postoperative cerebellar mutism syndrome (CMS), consisting of diminished speech output, hypotonia, ataxia, and emotional lability, occurs after surgery in up to 25% of patients with medulloblastoma and occasionally after removal of other posterior fossa tumors. Although the mutism is transient, speech rarely normalizes and the syndrome is associated with long-term adverse neurological, cognitive, and psychological sequelae. The clinical, neuroradiographic, and neuropsychological findings associated with CMS as well as possible mechanisms of injury are reviewed. Theories about the pathophysiology of CMS have evolved along with our understanding of the cerebellum as an important structure in the distributive neurocircuitry underlying complex speech, cognition, and behavior. CMS shares many similarities with the cerebellar cognitive affective syndrome, more commonly described in adults and consisting of disturbances of executive function, visuospatial skills, nonmotor language, and affect regulation. Future directions include more thorough neuropsychological characterization, functional and diffusion tensor imaging studies, and investigations into the underlying differences that may make some patients more vulnerable to CMS.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Brain Damage, Chronic / diagnosis
  • Brain Damage, Chronic / etiology*
  • Brain Damage, Chronic / psychology
  • Cerebellar Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Child
  • Child Behavior Disorders / diagnosis
  • Child Behavior Disorders / etiology
  • Child Behavior Disorders / psychology
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology*
  • Cognition Disorders / psychology
  • Cranial Fossa, Posterior / surgery*
  • Developmental Disabilities / diagnosis
  • Developmental Disabilities / etiology*
  • Developmental Disabilities / psychology
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Medulloblastoma / surgery*
  • Mood Disorders / diagnosis
  • Mood Disorders / etiology*
  • Mood Disorders / psychology
  • Mutism / diagnosis
  • Mutism / etiology*
  • Mutism / psychology
  • Risk Factors
  • Skull Base Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Survivors / psychology*
  • Young Adult