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Standardized test battery to aid those with Down syndrome
Date:1/12/2009

Researchers at The University of Arizona are developing a set of standardized tests that could improve the lives of people with Down syndrome.

The condition, which occurs once in every approximately 800 to 1,000 live births, is signaled by the presence of an extra 21st chromosome. Those with Down syndrome often have mild to severe developmental disabilities, and other health issues that include heart defects and the early onset of Alzheimer's dementia. New research also suggests connections between chromosome 21 and other genes point to some of these problems.

For the past 25 years, Lynn Nadel has been studying the cognitive aspects of Down syndrome. Nadel, a Regents' Professor in the UA psychology department, has spent the bulk of his career studying the hippocampus, the area located deep within the brain that is associated with memory and spatial navigation.

Nadel said while some researchers may be involved with Down syndrome, he was drawn to it as an interesting scientific problem. The hippocampus develops later than other parts of the brain, including after birth, and is susceptible to disruptions. Nadel became interested in the possible implications of environmental impacts such as fetal alcohol syndrome, autism, lead and mercury poisoning and others.

"A lot of things that happen early in life have an impact on the development of this structure because it is still plastic and developing," Nadel said.

"Since the hippocampus is one of the later developing parts of the nervous system, it made sense to think there might be some connection between this late development story and cognitive problems in Down syndrome."

Starting in the mid-1980s, Nadel began to speculate on the possibility that problems with hippocampal development might also contribute to cognitive problems in Down syndrome. He said the existing literature and later research added to the mounting evidence connecting the two. His own neuropsyc
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Contact: Lynn Nadel
nadel@email.arizona.edu
520-621-7447
University of Arizona
Source:Eurekalert

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