Pupil response and attention skills in Down syndrome

Res Dev Disabil. 2017 Nov:70:40-49. doi: 10.1016/j.ridd.2017.08.011. Epub 2017 Sep 6.


Down syndrome (DS) is characterized by attentional problems. Little is known about the neural correlates of attention problems in DS due to difficulties in evaluation. Pupil dilation, associated with an increase in cognitive load and locus coeruleus-noradrenaline system activity in humans, is a neurophysiological measurement that may help to characterize such problems. The aim of this research was to investigate the link between a phasic pupil dilation response and target detection in people with DS, as compared with a control group with typical development (TD) matched by mental age. Participants performed an "oddball" task by means of an eye-tracker and a series of neuropsychological tests. Although the DS and control group demonstrated similar attentional skills and behavioral performance, the participants with DS showed greater pupil dilation. This result suggests that people with DS expend extra cognitive effort to achieve performance similar to those with TD. This finding is discussed in light of the attentional process in DS and the reliability of pupil dilation measurement in the study of attention and other cognitive processes in DS.

Keywords: Attention; Down syndrome; Pupil dilation.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Down Syndrome / physiopathology*
  • Down Syndrome / psychology
  • Eye Movement Measurements
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Pupil / physiology*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Spatial Memory
  • Young Adult