The human cerebellum develops over a long time, extending from the early embryonic period until the first postnatal years. This protracted development makes the cerebellum vulnerable to a broad spectrum of developmental disorders. The development of the cerebellum occurs in four basic steps: 1) characterization of the cerebellar territory at the midbrain-hindbrain boundary; 2) formation of two compartments for cell proliferation: first, the Purkinje cells and the deep cerebellar nuclei arise from the ventricular zone of the metencephalic alar plate; second, granule cell precursors are formed from a second compartment of proliferation, i. e. the upper rhombic lip; 3) inward migration of the granule cells: granule precursor cells form the external granular layer, from which (and continuing into the first postnatal year), granule cells migrate inwards to their definite position in the internal granular layer, and 4) formation of cerebellar circuitry and further differentiation. The precerebellar nuclei, i. e. the pontine nuclei and the inferior olive, arise from the lower rhombic lip. Developmental disorders of the cerebellum are often accompanied by malformations of the precerebellar nuclei. In this review the development of the cerebellum and some of its more frequent developmental disorders, such as the Dandy-Walker and related midline malformations, and the pontocerebellar hypoplasias, are discussed.
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