Published April 2019
Ana A Baburamani Prachi A Patkee Tomoki Arichi Mary A Rutherford
Down syndrome is the most common genetic developmental disorder in humans and is caused by partial or complete triplication of human chromosome 21 (trisomy 21). It is a complex condition which results in multiple lifelong health problems, including varying degrees of intellectual disability and delays in speech, memory, and learning. As both length and quality of life are improving for individuals with Down syndrome, attention is now being directed to understanding and potentially treating the associated cognitive difficulties and their underlying biological substrates. These have included imaging and postmortem studies which have identified decreased regional brain volumes and histological anomalies that accompany early onset dementia. In addition, advances in genome‐wide analysis and Down syndrome mouse models are providing valuable insight into potential targets for intervention that could improve neurogenesis and long‐term cognition. As little is known about early brain development in human Down syndrome, we review recent advances in magnetic resonance imaging that allow non‐invasive visualization of brain macro‐ and microstructure, even in utero. It is hoped that together these advances may enable Down syndrome to become one of the first genetic disorders to be targeted by antenatal treatments designed to ‘normalize’ brain development.