Prospects for improving brain function in individuals with Down syndrome

CNS Drugs. 2013 Sep;27(9):679-702. doi: 10.1007/s40263-013-0089-3.


Down syndrome (DS), which results from an extra copy of chromosome 21 (trisomy 21), is the most common genetically defined cause of intellectual disability. Although no pharmacotherapy aimed at counteracting the cognitive and adaptive deficits associated with this genetic disorder has been approved at present, there have been several new promising studies on pharmacological agents capable of rescuing learning/memory deficits seen in mouse models of DS. Here, we will review the available mouse models for DS and provide a comprehensive, albeit not exhaustive review of the following preclinical research strategies: (1) SOD1 and antioxidant agents; (2) APP and γ-secretase inhibitors; (3) DYRK1A and the polyphenol epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG); (4) GIRK2 and fluoxetine; (5) adrenergic receptor agonists; (6) modulation of GABAA and GABAB receptors; (7) agonism of the hedgehog signaling pathway; (8) nerve growth factor (NGF) and other neurotrophic factors; (9) anticholinesterase (AChE) agents; and (10) antagonism of NMDA receptors. Finally, we will review briefly five different strategies in DS that have led to clinical studies that either have been concluded or are currently underway: (1) antioxidant therapy; (2) AChE therapy; (3) green tea extract therapy; (4) RG1662 therapy; and (5) memantine therapy. These are exciting times in DS research. Within a decade or so, it is well into the realm of possibility that new forms of pharmacotherapies might become valuable tools in the armamentarium of developmental clinicians, as adjutants to more traditional and proven forms of habilitative interventions aimed at improving the quality of life of individuals with DS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Down Syndrome / drug therapy*
  • Down Syndrome / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Learning / drug effects
  • Memory / drug effects
  • Mice
  • Quality of Life