PURPOSE: Cognitive decline in Down syndrome generally shows neurodegenerative aspects similar to what is observed in Alzheimer's disease. Few studies reported information on white matter integrity. The aim of this study was to evaluate white matter alterations in a cohort of young Down subjects, without dementia, by means of DTI technique, compared to a normal control group.
METHODS: The study group consisted of 17 right-handed subjects with DS and many control subjects. All individuals participating in this study were examined by MR exam including DTI acquisition (32 non-coplanar directions); image processing and analysis were performed using FMRIB Software Library (FSL version 4.1.9, http://www.fmrib.ox.ac.uk/fsl )) software package. Finally, the diffusion tensor was estimated voxel by voxel and the FA map derived from the tensor. A two-sample t test was performed to assess differences between DS and control subjects.
RESULTS: The FA is decreased in DS subjects, compared to control subjects, in the region of the anterior thalamic radiation, the inferior fronto-occipital fasciculum, the inferior longitudinal fasciculum, and the cortico-spinal tract, bilaterally.
CONCLUSIONS: The early white matter damage visible in our DS subjects could have great impact in the therapeutic management, in particular in better adapting the timing of therapies to counteract the toxic effect of the deposition of amyloid that leads to oxidative stress.