Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Down syndrome and sleep


The Down Syndrome Research Group at the University of Arizona conducts research to further our understanding and treatment of the cognitive dysfunction associated with Down syndrome.
Part of our research studies sleep, which is very important for learning. Sleep can be a problem for people with Down syndrome. Our laboratory is one of the few places in the world that studies sleep in people with Down syndrome.
One of our studies may determine how obstructive sleep apnea affects learning and behavior in people with Down syndrome. We anticipate illuminating links between sleep and cognitive deficits, thereby enhancing the possibilities for treating sleep disruption.
Our study has also had an impact on the public's awareness that people with Down syndrome may have problems sleeping. We offered a family in Phoenix an opportunity for their son to take part in the sleep study. As a result, he is now receiving treatment that has changed his life.
His mother, Leticia Avena, wrote about the impact of the study on her son's life:
"As a little boy, Isaiah would snore loudly and he always seemed tired and grumpy. His ENT suggested removing his tonsils and adenoids. After the surgery, we noticed some improvement with the snoring and breathing, but he was still tired and irritable."
After we tested Isaiah's sleep patterns with a method of monitoring the quantity and quality of sleep called polysomnography, we recommended that the Avena family follow up with his pediatrician and have a formal sleep study done.
"Isaiah was diagnosed with sleep apnea and prescribed a continuous positive airway pressure (cPAP) machine. Who would have thought that a little machine like that could make such a big difference!" his mother wrote.
"He no longer snores, he's happier and more alert, and we've been able to cut back on his medication for ADHD. We are very grateful to the DSRG. They have made a big difference in Isaiah's life, which has made our lives better, too."
The Down Syndrome Research Group also provides opportunities for people with Down syndrome to intern in our lab.
Sherine Rocha, a 20-year old woman with Down syndrome, is one of our interns. Her volunteer work helps support several research studies already under way in the lab, including one that develops tools to assess people's cognitive abilities. These tools will be used in studies to tell if a therapy has worked. Sherine and her family were excited to hear that possible treatments are being tested right now.
Success stories like these inspire us. In December 2011, the Down Syndrome Research Group and the UA College of Science established DSA CARES (Down Syndrome Arizona! - Clinical Care, Advocacy, Research and Education) to continue our research and to develop partnerships with the community.
Sherine and Isaiah are just two of the individuals with Down syndrome who have already participated and benefited from DSA CARES. This partnership is critical for obtaining the resources needed to support Arizonans with Down syndrome for years to come.
Our ultimate goal is helping everyone with Down syndrome maximize their potential.
About the scientists
Lynn Nadel is a University of Arizona Regents' Professor of psychology and a faculty member in the Cognitive Science Program. He is an expert in the functioning of the hippocampus, a part of the brain involved in memory that is the major target of neurological interventions in Down syndrome.
Jamie Edgin is a University of Arizona assistant professor of psychology and affiliated faculty of the Sonoran University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities. She studies memory in typical development and in neurodevelopmental disorders such as Down syndrome.

Experience Science
• UA Down Syndrome Research Group: dsrg.arizona.edu
• Arizona Public Media story on sleep in Down syndrome: https://www.azpm.org/p/top-health/2011/6/27/1830-sleep-and-down-syndrome
• KJZZ radio interview: archive.kjzz.org/news/arizona /archives/201009 /Down_Testing

How to participate
To take part in these studies, contact Jamie Edgin at 520-626-0244 or jedgin@email.arizona.edu

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