Psychology ETDs

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Children born very low birth weight (VLBW; <1800 grams) and/or preterm (<33 weeks gestation) frequently have cerebellar hypoplasia, and a constellation of cognitive deficits. The cerebellum, now shown to be involved in many non-motor functions, has a protracted maturation process similar to the frontal lobes, and new evidence suggests the cerebellum may be more vulnerable to environmental factors than subject to genetics. However, relationships between specific cerebellar structures and cognitive functions have not been extensively investigated. We examined relationships between the volume of four cerebellar regions of interest (ROI) and language performance in two age samples: 27 participants between 16 and 20 months of age and 20 participants between 3 and 4 years old. Language performance was significantly different between VLBW and control groups in both age samples. No significant relationships were evident between language performance and ROI volume in the 18-month-old sample. Anterior vermis volume was significantly correlated with VIQ scores in only the 3-year-old VLBW group, in the absence of a significant group difference in anterior vermis volume. This correlation remained significant in the VLBW group, even when controlling for number of days on ventilation. In terms of predicting group membership, VIQ was the most significant predictor in the 3-year-old sample, with increased specificity when adding right dentate nucleus volume. In terms of predicting VIQ scores, ethnicity was the most significant predictor for the control group, but days of ventilation along with anterior vermis volume best predicted VIQ in the VLBW group. The possibility of a differential relationship between anterior vermis volume and language ability in VLBW children, possibly emerging between 18 months and 3 years of age, may have implications for development of interventions, particularly given environmental vulnerability and the protracted cerebellar maturation process.

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Level of Degree


Department Name


First Advisor

Verney, Steven

Second Advisor

Yeo, Ronald

First Committee Member (Chair)

Thoma, Robert

Second Committee Member

Lowe, Jean




Language disorders in children--Physiological aspects, Cerebellum--Abnormalities, Cerebellum--Growth.

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