A non-drug, placebo-controlled study of the efficacy of a computer-based program to improve working memory in adolescents and young adults with Down Syndrome

Research institution: Duke University

Researcher(s): James Heller

Training Program: Cogmed JM

Status: Ongoing

Summary: Individuals with Down syndrome appear to have superior visual memory skills as compared to spatial memory. Memory and executive function deficits of individuals with Down syndrome have been associated with the neurologic impairment of the hippocampus (memory) and frontal lobes (executive function). Nerve densities in these areas of the brain are much less as compared to typically developing peers. The relationship between neurologic function and language deficit in Down syndrome has not been clearly delineated. It has been suggested that the language deficit may be related to and perhaps result from the working memory deficit. However, new brain imagining data suggest that language deficits seen in Down syndrome also may be directly linked to impaired hippocampus function. Recent research suggests that working memory deficits can be improved with computer-based training. In this study researchers propose to investigate whether or not working memory in adolescents and young adults with Down syndrome can be improved with computer-based training.

Aim: Fifteen participants with Down syndrome, ages 11 to 25 years, will be randomly assigned to either adaptive or non-adaptive working memory training. One aim of this study will be to determine if working memory deficits can be improved in adolescents and young adults with Down syndrome. Researchers will also investigate whether there is a differential effect of memory training on visual versus spatial memory and visual-spatial memory versus auditory memory. Another aim of this study is to compare the learning performance profiles of the individuals with Down syndrome to the reported learning profiles of school-age children with ADHD and preschool children. Finally, researchers will attempt to determine if the learning achieved through the computer-based training generalizes to other computer-based and non computer-based assessments of working memory, attention, reasoning and language function.