Neurodevelopmental and Psychiatric Symptoms in Patients with a Cyst Compressing the Cerebellum: an Ongoing Enigma

Cerebellum. 2020 Feb;19(1):16-29. doi: 10.1007/s12311-019-01050-4.


A patient diagnosed with developmental delay, intellectual disability, and autistic and obsessive-compulsive symptoms was found to have a posterior fossa arachnoid cyst (PFAC) compressing the cerebellum. The patient was referred to our Ataxia Unit for consideration of surgical drainage of the cyst to improve his clinical constellation. This scenario led to an in-depth analysis including a literature review, functional resting-state MRI analysis of our patient compared to a group of controls, and genetic testing. While it is reasonable to consider that there may be a causal relationship between PFAC and neurodevelopmental or psychiatric symptoms in some patients, there is also a nontrivial prevalence of PFAC in the asymptomatic population and a significant possibility that many PFAC are incidental findings in the context of primary cognitive or psychiatric symptoms. Our functional MRI analysis is the first to examine brain function, and to report cerebellar dysfunction, in a patient presenting with cognitive/psychiatric symptoms found to have a structural abnormality compressing the cerebellum. These neuroimaging findings are inherently limited due to their correlational nature but provide unprecedented evidence suggesting that cerebellar compression may be associated with cerebellar dysfunction. Exome gene sequencing revealed additional etiological possibilities, highlighting the complexity of this field of cerebellar clinical and scientific practice. Our findings and discussion may guide future investigations addressing an important knowledge gap-namely, is there a link between cerebellar compression (including arachnoid cysts and possibly other forms of cerebellar compression such as Chiari malformation), cerebellar dysfunction (including fMRI abnormalities reported here), and neuropsychiatric symptoms?

Keywords: Arachnoid cyst; Behavioral neurology; Cerebellum; Neuropsychiatry; fMRI.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arachnoid Cysts / complications
  • Arachnoid Cysts / diagnostic imaging*
  • Arachnoid Cysts / surgery
  • Cerebellar Diseases / complications
  • Cerebellar Diseases / diagnostic imaging*
  • Cerebellar Diseases / surgery
  • Cerebellum / diagnostic imaging*
  • Cerebellum / surgery
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / complications
  • Mental Disorders / diagnostic imaging*
  • Mental Disorders / surgery
  • Neurodevelopmental Disorders / complications
  • Neurodevelopmental Disorders / diagnostic imaging*
  • Neurodevelopmental Disorders / surgery