Central neurocytoma

A.Prof Frank Gaillard et al.

Central neurocytomas are WHO grade II neuroepithelial intraventricular tumours with fairly characteristic imaging features, appearing as heterogeneous masses of variable size and enhancement within the lateral ventricle, typically attached to the septum pellucidum. They are typically seen in young patients and generally have a good prognosis provided a complete resection can be achieved. 

Extraventricular neurocytomas (previously known as cerebral neurocytomas) are distinctly uncommon and discussed in a separate article.

Central neurocytomas are typically seen in young patients (70% diagnosed between 20 and 40 years of age) and account for less than 1% (0.25-0.5%) of intracranial tumours 10-11. There is no reported gender predilection 10

Typically, central neurocytomas present with symptoms of increased intracranial pressure, headaches being most frequent, or seizures (especially tumours with extraventricular extension).

A relatively short clinical course, typically only a few months, is most common. Rarely central neurocytomas may be associated with sudden death secondary to acute ventricular obstruction 4. Also rare, is a sudden presentation due to intraventricular haemorrhage 7

Central neurocytomas demonstrate neuronal differentiation and histologically appear similar to oligodendrogliomas which, historically, resulted in many tumours erroneously categorised.

The initial description classified them as WHO grade I lesions. However, this was upgraded in 1993 to WHO grade II as it was recognised that at least some of these tumours exhibited more aggressive behaviour 10


The vast majority of central neurocytomas are located entirely within the ventricles. Typical locations include 4:

  • lateral ventricles around foramen of Monro (most common): 50%
  • both lateral and 3rd ventricles: 15%
  • bilateral: 15%
  • 3rd ventricle in isolation: 5%
Macroscopic features

Central neurocytomas are usually friable grey-coloured tumours, sometimes demonstrating areas of calcification and haemorrhage 11

Microscopic features

The cells are typically uniform and round with a salt and pepper finely speckled chromatin 11. They also demonstrate areas of variable architecture that are reminiscent of other tumours, including oligodendrogliomas, pineocytomas and neuroendocrine tumours 11


Immunohistochemistry confirms the purely neuronal origin by positivity to neuronal markers such as 11:

GFAP and IDH-1 R132H are negative 11.


Importantly, IDH mutations and 1p19q co-deletion are absent (characteristic of oligodendrogliomas). 


Extraventricular neurocytomas are histologically similar but lack an intraventricular component 11

Ganglioneurocytoma is a variant, usually of extraventricular neurocytomas, demonstrating a distinct ganglion cells component 6,11,12.


Central neurocytomas are usually hyperattenuating compared to white matter. Calcification is seen in over half of cases, usually punctate in nature 4,10. Cystic regions are frequently present, especially in larger tumours. Contrast enhancement is usually mild to moderate. Accompanying ventricular dilatation often present.

  • T1
    • isointense to grey matter 
    • heterogeneous
  • T1 C+
    • mild-moderate heterogeneous enhancement
  • T2/FLAIR
    • typically iso to somewhat hyperintense compared to brain 
    • numerous cystic areas (bubbly appearance), many of which completely attenuate on FLAIR
    • prominent flow voids may be seen 10
  • GE/SWI
    • calcification is common, typically punctate
    • haemorrhage (especially in larger tumours) is common
    • uncommonly results in ventricular haemorrhage
  • MR spectroscopy
    • may have a strong choline peak
    • glycine peak (3.55ppm) has also been reported 10

A tumour blush is frequently identified, with the mass supplied by choroidal vessels. No large feeding arteries are usually seen.

Complete surgical resection is usually curative (5 years survival 81%). When only incomplete resection possible or extraventricular extension is present, then adjuvant radiotherapy (and sometimes chemotherapy) are added, although their benefit is not well established.

Cases of CSF dissemination have been reported, but are rare 10

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Article information

rID: 1076
Section: Pathology
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Central intraventricular neurocytoma
  • Intraventricular neurocytoma

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Cases and figures

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    Figure 1: histology - "salt and pepper" appearance
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    Case 1
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    Figure 2: positivity to neuronal markers
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    Case 2
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    Case 3
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    Case 4
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    Case 5
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    Case 6
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    Case 7 : recurrent neurocytoma
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    Case 8
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    Case 9: with haemorrhage
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    Case 10: with haemorrhage
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    Case 11
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    Case 12
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    Case 13: in the left lateral ventricle
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    Case 14
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