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Early childhood obesity is associated with compromised cerebellar development

As part of a study investigating commonalities between Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS-a genetic imprinting disorder) and early-onset obesity of unknown etiology (EMO) we measured total cerebral and cerebellar volume on volumetric magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) images. Individuals with PWS (N = 16) and EMO (N = 12) had smaller cerebellar volumes than a control group of 15 siblings (p = .02 control vs. EMO; p = .0005 control vs. PWS), although there was no difference among the groups in cerebral volume. Individuals with PWS and EMO also had impaired cognitive function: general intellectual ability (GIA): PWS 65 +/- 25; EMO 81 +/- 19; and Controls 112 +/- 13 (p < .0001 controls vs. PWS and controls vs. EMO). As both conditions are characterized by early-onset obesity and slowed cognitive development, these results raise the possibility that early childhood obesity retards both cerebellar and cognitive development.


Miller, J. L., Couch, J., Schwenk, K., Long, M., Towler, S., Theriaque, D. W., ... Leonard, C. M. (2009). Early childhood obesity is associated with compromised cerebellar development. Developmental Neuropsychology, 34(3), 272-283. DOI: 10.1080/87565640802530961

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