Motion perception deficit in Down Syndrome

Maria Michela Del Viva, Arianna Tozzi, Stefania Bargagna, Giovanni Cioni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It is a well established fact that Down Syndrome (DS) individuals have a tendency to develop Alzheimer's disease (AD) (Lott, I.T., Head, E., 2005. Alzheimer disease and Down syndrome: factors in pathogenesis. Neurobiol. Aging 26, 383-389). They have therefore been proposed as a model to study the pre-dementia stage of Alzheimer's (Mann, D.M., 1988. The pathological association between Down syndrome and Alzheimer disease. Mech. Ageing Dev. 43, 99-136). One of the specific deficits exhibited by AD patients is optic flow motion perception (Tetewsky, S.J., Duffy, C.J., 1999. Visual loss and getting lost in Alzheimer's disease. Neurology 52, 958-965), but there are no corresponding systematic studies in DS individuals. We performed sensitivity measurements to optic flow with Visual Evoked Potentials (VEP) and psychophysical techniques in a group of young DS participants with mild mental retardation and without significant Alzheimer's clinical symptoms. We found a significant reduction in direction discrimination sensitivity to optic flow (random dots moving in radial, rotational and translational trajectories) in DS participants compared to mental age-matched controls, while their sensitivity to direction of control moving stimuli (sinusoidal gratings) was similar to age-matched controls. Measurements of Visual Evoked Potentials (VEP) showed no response to optic flow, although the response to control stimuli (contrast-reversal checkerboard patterns) was significant. Overall, our results show a selective and substantial deficit in the perception of optic flow motion and a corresponding suppression of electroencephalographic activity in DS individuals, thus establishing a further common trait between Down Syndrome and Alzheimer's disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)214-220
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1 2015


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Down Syndrome
  • Motion perception
  • Optic flow

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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