Development and Aging in Down’s Syndrome

  • K. E. Wisniewski
  • M. Dambska


The delayed development and impaired maturation of the central nervous system (CNS) in Down’s syndrome (DS) is presented from the prenatal period until premature aging. The parameters examined by many authors, such as head measurements, brain weight and shape, and light and electron microscopic examination of selected cortical areas are discussed. The data suggest that the first differences between DS and non-DS brains appear during the second half of fetal life when several minor abnormalities in the number of cortical neurons and synaptic structure are seen. Postnatal development in DS looks evidently disturbed and retarded. The decreased neuronal density, reduced number of synapses, and abnormal features of these synapses are most accentuated during and after midinfancy. The distribution of neuronal changes reveals a particular deficit of granular neurons, leading to a deep reorganization of cortical structure. The heterogeneity of anomalies occurring during brain development that never reach a normal level overlap with the process of aging, which occurs in the third decade of life and even before this age. Neuropathological changes of the Alzheimer type, such as fibrillary tangles and senile plaques, develop 20 to 30 years earlier in the DS than the non-DS population, and in DS dementia occurs later than morphological features of aging. We hope that the review of the complex events occurring during delayed and even more abnormal development in DS cases overlapping with premature aging will be useful for further genetic study of the pathomechanism of this syndrome.


Down Syndrome Senile Plaque Premature Aging Brain Weight Neuronal Density 
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© Birkhäuser Boston 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • K. E. Wisniewski
  • M. Dambska

There are no affiliations available

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