The Cognition and Development Laboratory conducts research on cognitive functioning and developmental processes in adults with Down syndrome and with other forms of intellectual disability. Our research is conducted in collaboration with scientists from The Sergievsky Center and the Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer’s Disease and the Aging Brain at Columbia University Medical Center and with Dr. Wayne Silverman from the University of California at Irvine.
- We are part of a consortium of researchers who are federally funded from the National Institutes of Health/National Institute on Aging (NIH/NIA) to examine the “Biomarkers of Alzheimer’s Disease in Adults with Down Syndrome.” Adults with Down syndrome are at high risk for developing early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Early diagnosis is critically important, given that effective prevention and treatment must precede irreversible neuronal loss. The goals of this study are to identify sensitive neuropsychological measures of cognitive decline, as well as sensitive imaging, blood-based, and genetic biomarkers associated with the transition from normal cognitive aging to mild cognitive impairment to clinical dementia.
- Another NIH/NIA-funded project focuses on the “Identification of Protective Factors for Cognitive Resilience in Adults with Down Syndrome: A Multi-omic Study.” This project will investigate multi-omic profiles (specifically, proteomic, metabolomics, and genomic approaches) to identify molecular signatures that predict relative protection vs. susceptibility in this cohort with known genetic risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
- In collaboration with Dr. Benjamin Handen (University of Pittsburgh), Dr. Sigan Hartley (University of Wisconsin), and the National Alzheimer’s Coordinating Center (NACC) we are developing a Down syndrome neuropsychological and functional abilities testing module to be added to the NACC database that can be administered to people with Down syndrome seeking evaluations at any one of the Alzheimer’s Disease Centers in the United States.
- We are currently developing objective and quantitative criteria for classifying mild cognitive impairment in adults with Down syndrome. There is increasing evidence that subtle losses in cognitive functions may be symptomatic of a transition to early Alzheimer’s disease. This evidence suggests that we may be able to identify such individuals prospectively, and as therapeutic interventions become available, clinicians can intervene to halt or slow the progression towards severe dementia.