High resolution structural and functional MRI of the hippoca
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Using ultra-high-field magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to map the brains of people with Down syndrome (DS), researchers detected subtle differences in the structure and function of the hippocampus—a region of the brain tied to memory and learning.

Down syndrome is a genetic condition typically caused by having an extra copy of chromosome 21. The extra chromosome changes how a baby's body and brain develop, which can cause mental and physical challenges throughout the person's life.

The intellectual and developmental disabilities of individuals with DS are typically generalized. In other words, although abilities can range widely among people with DS, different types of cognitive skills are usually affected in a similar way in the same person. However, for a given person with DS, cognitive abilities that are heavily dependent on the hippocampus are especially affected.

Taking advantage of the increased resolution afforded by high-powered MRI, the researchers performed the first in-vivo comparison of volumes of different anatomical segments of the hippocampus between people with DS and "control" individuals of the same age and sex without DS.

"The gains in sensitivity and image resolution achievable with ultra-high field MRI provide levels of detail and accuracy that have not previously been attainable in studies of live, non-sedated individuals with Down syndrome," said the first author.

"We also found significant relationships between the size of subregions of the hippocampus and cognitive measures," said the investigator. "Although more work will be necessary to validate some of our findings, these results support the investigation of specific MRI measures as potential markers to study drug efficacy for possibly enhancing cognitive function in persons with Down syndrome."

Brain Communications
Source: https://doi.org/10.1093/braincomms/fcab088
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