A longitudinal study of brain anatomy changes preceding dementia in Down syndrome

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Background: We longitudinally assessed Down syndrome individuals at the age of risk of developing dementia to measure changes in brain anatomy and their relationship to cognitive impairment progression. Methods: Forty-two Down syndrome individuals were initially included, of whom 27 (mean age 46.8 years) were evaluable on the basis of completing the 2-year follow-up and success in obtaining good quality MRI exams. Voxel-based morphometry was used to estimate regional brain volumes at baseline and follow-up on 3D anatomical images. Longitudinal volume changes for the group and their relationship with change in general cognitive status and specific cognitive domains were mapped. Results: As a group, significant volume reduction was identified in the substantia innominata region of the basal forebrain, hippocampus, lateral temporal cortex and left arcuate fasciculus. Volume reduction in the substantia innominata and hippocampus was more prominent in individuals whose clinical status changed from cognitively stable to mild cognitive impairment or dementia during the follow-up. Relevantly, longitudinal memory score change was specifically associated with volume change in the hippocampus, prospective memory with prefrontal lobe and verbal comprehension with language-related brain areas. Conclusions: Results are notably concordant with the well-established anatomical changes signaling the progression to dementia in Alzheimer's disease, despite the dense baseline pathology that developmentally accumulates in Down syndrome. This commonality supports the potential value of Down syndrome as a genetic model of Alzheimer's neurodegeneration and may serve to further support the view that Down syndrome patients are best candidates to benefit from treatment research in Alzheimer's disease.




Pujol, J., Fenoll, R., Ribas-Vidal, N., Martínez-Vilavella, G., Blanco-Hinojo, L., García-Alba, J., … Esteba-Castillo, S. (2018). A longitudinal study of brain anatomy changes preceding dementia in Down syndrome. NeuroImage: Clinical, 18, 160–166. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nicl.2018.01.024

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