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We are actively engaged in several collaborative longitudinal studies of aging in adults with DS to test the hypothesis that white matter integrity, cerebrovascular dysfunction and neuroinflammation contribute to cognitive decline and dementia.

By identifying key factors modifying or associated with the development of dementia in DS, we can identify novel targets for intervention that are highly likely to be unique to this vulnerable group of people.

Thus our lab has several projects as follows:

The overarching goal of our laboratory is to identify interventions for people with Down syndrome (DS) to slow or prevent the development of Alzheimer disease (AD).

Alzheimer's Biomarkers Consortium - Down Syndrome (ABC-DS)

This is a comprehensive multidisciplinary longitudinal assessment of biomarkers that may predict cognitive decline in 550 people with Down syndrome. Studies are focused on clinical, neuropsychological, MRI imaging, CSF, PET imaging, proteomics and metabolomics. The ABC-DS study has been renewed until 2025 (Handen, Mapstone, Christian and Head – PIs).

Aging and Dementia in Down syndrome: Connectivity, Inflammation and Cerebrovascular Contributions

The study will identify new ways in which to detect Alzheimer disease (AD) in adults with Down syndrome (DS) by monitoring changes in cognitive function, measuring brain changes by magnetic resonance imaging and profiling patterns of proteins in the plasma. In parallel, autopsy studies of brain samples will help us to understand how noninvasive cognitive, imaging and blood measures reflect the development of AD in DS. Treatments for AD in DS will be more effective if the disease is detected early and identifying biomarkers will greatly facilitate the development of therapeutics.

International Brain Bank for Down Syndrome-Related Alzheimer Disease

The purpose of this project is to determine the neurobiological mechanisms underlying the onset of Alzheimer disease in people with Down syndrome, and to develop a strong collaborate network between six different research groups.

Alzheimer Disease Research Center

The Head laboratory is a member of the UCI MIND Alzheimer disease research center and provides support for the brain tissue repository as well implementing new protocols to scan neuropathology slides and provide quantitative neuropathology outcomes for researchers.