Cerebellum development during childhood and adolescence: a longitudinal morphometric MRI study

Neuroimage. 2010 Jan 1;49(1):63-70. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2009.08.016. Epub 2009 Aug 13.


In addition to its well-established role in balance, coordination, and other motor skills, the cerebellum is increasingly recognized as a prominent contributor to a wide array of cognitive and emotional functions. Many of these capacities undergo dramatic changes during childhood and adolescence. However, accurate characterization of co-occurring anatomical changes has been hindered by lack of longitudinal data and methodologic challenges in quantifying subdivisions of the cerebellum. In this study we apply an innovative image analysis technique to quantify total cerebellar volume and 11 subdivisions (i.e. anterior, superior posterior, and inferior posterior lobes, corpus medullare, and three vermal regions) from anatomic brain MRI scans from 25 healthy females and 25 healthy males aged 5-24 years, each of whom was scanned at least three times at approximately 2-year intervals. Total cerebellum volume followed an inverted U shaped developmental trajectory peaking at age 11.8 years in females and 15.6 years in males. Cerebellar volume was 10% to 13% larger in males depending on the age of comparison and the sexual dimorphism remained significant after covarying for total brain volume. Subdivisions of the cerebellum had distinctive developmental trajectories with more phylogenetically recent regions maturing particularly late. The cerebellum's unique protracted developmental trajectories, sexual dimorphism, preferential vulnerability to environmental influences, and frequent implication in childhood onset disorders such as autism and ADHD make it a prime target for pediatric neuroimaging investigations.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cerebellar Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Cerebellar Cortex / growth & development
  • Cerebellum / anatomy & histology*
  • Cerebellum / growth & development*
  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Regression Analysis
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Young Adult