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BACKGROUND: Cerebellar mutism syndrome (CMS) is a common and debilitating complication of posterior fossa tumour surgery in children. Affected children exhibit communication and social impairments that overlap phenomenologically with subsets of deficits exhibited by children with Autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Although both CMS and ASD are thought to involve disrupted cerebro-cerebellar circuitry, they are considered independent conditions due to an incomplete understanding of their shared neural substrates. METHODS: In this study, we analyzed post-operative cerebellar lesions from 90 children undergoing posterior fossa resection of medulloblastoma, 30 of whom developed CMS. Lesion locations were mapped to a standard atlas, and the networks functionally connected to each lesion were computed in normative adult and paediatric datasets. Generalizability to ASD was assessed using an independent cohort of children with ASD and matched controls (n=427). RESULTS: Lesions in children who developed CMS involved the vermis and inferomedial cerebellar lobules. They engaged large-scale cerebellothalamocortical circuits with a preponderance for the prefrontal and parietal cortices in the paediatric and adult connectomes, respectively. Moreover, with increasing connectomic age, CMS-associated lesions demonstrated stronger connectivity to the midbrain/red nuclei, thalami and inferior parietal lobules and weaker connectivity to prefrontal cortex. Importantly, the CMS-associated lesion network was independently reproduced in ASD and correlated with communication and social deficits, but not repetitive behaviours. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings indicate that CMS-associated lesions result in an ASD-like network disturbance that occurs during sensitive windows of brain development. A common network disturbance between CMS and ASD may inform improved treatment strategies for affected children.

Original publication




Journal article


Neuro Oncol

Publication Date



Autism spectrum disorder, Cerebellar cognitive affective syndrome, Cerebellar mutism, Connectomics, PFS, Posterior fossa syndrome, medulloblastoma, posterior fossa tumour