, Volume 11, Issue 3, pp 761-770
Date: 24 Dec 2011

3D Morphometric Analysis of Human Fetal Cerebellar Development

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Abstract

To date, growth of the human fetal cerebellum has been estimated primarily from linear measurements from ultrasound and 2D magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). In this study, we use 3D analytical methods to develop normative growth trajectories for the cerebellum in utero. We measured cerebellar volume, linear dimensions, and local surface curvature from 3D reconstructed MRI of the human fetal brain (N = 46). We found that cerebellar volume increased approximately 7-fold from 20 to 31 gestational weeks. The better fit of the exponential curve (R 2 = 0.96) compared to the linear curve (R 2 = 0.92) indicated acceleration in growth. Within-subject cerebellar and cerebral volumes were highly correlated (R 2 = 0.94), though the cerebellar percentage of total brain volume increased from approximately 2.4% to 3.7% (R 2 = 0.63). Right and left hemispheric volumes did not significantly differ. Transcerebellar diameter, vermal height, and vermal anterior to posterior diameter increased significantly at constant rates. From the local curvature analysis, we found that expansion along the inferior and superior aspects of the hemispheres resulted in decreased convexity, which is likely due to the physical constraints of the dura surrounding the cerebellum and the adjacent brainstem. The paired decrease in convexity along the inferior vermis and increased convexity of the medial hemisphere represents development of the paravermian fissure, which becomes more visible during this period. In this 3D morphometric analysis of the human fetal cerebellum, we have shown that cerebellar growth is accelerating at a greater pace than the cerebrum and described how cerebellar growth impacts the shape of the structure.