White matter inextricably linked with cognitive health
Researchers have identified an interesting connection between the health of the brain tissue that supports cognitive functioning and the presence of dementia in adults with Down syndrome.
Elizabeth Head, Ph.D., the study's senior author, said that they used magnetic resonance imaging to compare the health of the brain's white matter and how strongly it connects different parts of the brain.
Research team member David Powell, PhD, compared the brain scans of three groups of volunteers: persons with Down syndrome but no dementia, persons with Down syndrome and dementia, and a healthy control group.
Using MRI technologies, brain scans of subjects with Down syndrome showed some compromise in the tissues of brain's frontal lobe compared to those from the control group. When people with Down syndrome and dementia were compared to people with Down syndrome without dementia, those same white matter connections were even less healthy.
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the study was the correlation between the cognitive abilities of participants with Down Syndrome and the integrity of their white matter- those who had higher motor skill coordination and better learning and memory ability had healthier frontal white matter connections.
The study has been published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging.
(Posted on 08-04-2014)