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For people with Down syndrome, family members, caregivers and professionals.

Common Mental Health Disorders and Cognitive Decline in a Longitudinal Down Syndrome Cohort

November 2023 | Idris et al. - BJPsych Open (2023)


Background: Down syndrome is the most common genetic cause of intellectual disability and Alzheimer's disease. In the general population, common mental disorders (CMDs), including anxiety, depression and obsessive–compulsive disorder, are linked to cognitive decline and higher risk for dementia. It is not known how CMDs affect longer-term cognitive outcomes in Down syndrome, and there is often diagnostic uncertainty in older people with Down syndrome and psychiatric comorbidity.

Aims: To study the influence of CMDs on cognitive ability and whether they are related longitudinally to development of clinical signs of Alzheimer's disease in Down syndrome.

Method: We followed 115 individuals with Down syndrome, 27 of whom were diagnosed with a CMD, over approximately 3 years. Changes in cognitive and behavioural outcomes between baseline and follow-up assessment were analysed, with comparisons made between those with and without a comorbid CMD. Age, gender, apolipoprotein E status and level of intellectual disability were included as covariates.

Results: No significant association between presence of a CMD and poorer performance on cognitive tasks or informant-rated decline over time was observed (P > 0.05).

Conclusions: Our results suggest that a diagnosis of a CMD does not have a significant negative effect on long-term cognitive or behavioural outcomes in individuals with Down syndrome. In individuals with stable or treated CMD, subsequent cognitive decline is likely indicative of Alzheimer's disease rather than a consequence of mental disorder.

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