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Neural Plasticity
Volume 10, Issue 1-2, Pages 129-140

Clumsiness and Disturbed Cerebellar Development: Insights From Animal Experiments

Medical Physiology, A. Deusinglaan 1, Groningen 9713AV, The Netherlands

Copyright © 2003 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Cerebellar functioning has been implied in the fine adjustments of muscle tone, in the coordination and the feed-forward control of movements and posture, as well as in the establishment and performance of motor skills. The cerebellar cortex in mammals develops late in neuro-ontogeny and an extrapolation from experimental results indicates that in the human the proliferation of the granule cells and the development of circuitry in the cerebellar cortex starts only in the last trimester of pregnancy and lasts until beyond the first birthday. This late development makes the cerebellar development particularly vulnerable to situations like an insufficient supply of nutrients, which may follow placental dysfunction, or to side effects of pharmacological treatments like the administration of corticosteroids in the postnatal period. We studied whether such situations might also lead to motor impairments. In rats, the effects of undernutrition during the brain growth spurt were investigated as well as those of corticosteroids administered in a period that is analogous to the 7th to 8th month of pregnancy in the human. Both these interferences affect cerebellar development and our results in rats indicate that they also lead to retardations in the, emergence of certain reflexes, as well as to longer lasting motor impairments during locomotion. Extrapolation of these results strongly suggests that a disturbed cerebellar development should be considered as an important etiological factor in clumsiness in human children.