Office for People With Developmental Disabilities

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Cognition and Development Laboratory


Sharon J. Krinsky-McHale, PhD, Head

[email protected]

The Cognition and Development Laboratory was recently established within the Department of Psychology. We conduct research on cognitive functioning and developmental processes in adults with Down syndrome (DS) and with other forms of intellectual disability. Our research is conducted in collaboration with other laboratories at IBR such as the Community Psychology Laboratory and the Clinical and Experimental Cytogenetics Laboratory as well as with scientists from Columbia University and with Dr. Wayne Silverman from the Kennedy Krieger Institute-Johns Hopkins University.

Some of our recent findings include the following:

  • Adults with DS have significant functional vision deficits in comparison to adults from the general population and age-matched individuals with intellectual disability from other causes. These deficits included an overall reduction of sensitivity across spatial frequencies and temporal modulation rates, significant impairment in visual acuity, either absent or reduced stereopsis, and anomalies in color vision.
  • Adults with DS and mild cognitive impairment showed high frequency of specific neuropsychiatric symptoms compared to their cognitively healthy peers. For example, they were significantly more likely to exhibit confused thinking (6% vs. 29.5%), temper tantrums (16.9% vs. 30.7%), object attachment (12% vs. 23.9%), and inattentiveness (3.6% vs. 18.2%). A significant proportion of individuals had a depressive disorder as well.

We are currently developing objective and quantitative criteria for classifying mild cognitive impairment in adults with DS. There is increasing evidence that subtle losses in cognitive functions may be symptomatic of a transition to early Alzheimer’s disease. This suggests that we may be able to identify such individuals prospectively, and as therapeutic interventions become available, clinicians can intervene to halt or slow the progress towards severe dementia.