By Christy Sanchez
National Down Syndrome Society's (NDSS) Position The following excerpt is taken directly from the National Down Syndrome Society's website:
“Myth: Down syndrome can never be cured.
Truth: Research on Down syndrome is making great strides in identifying the genes on chromosome 21 that cause the characteristics of Down syndrome. Scientists now feel strongly that it will be possible to improve, correct or prevent many of the problems associated with Down syndrome in the future.”
The only difference between NDSS's position and that of Changing Minds Foundation is that the future is here and treatment to improve cognition is available now.
Changing Minds Foundation Holds 1st National Conference CMF held its 1st National Conference on July 23-24, 2010, in Houston, Texas. Attendees came from numerous states and as far away as Singapore. Thanks to a generous stipend provided by the Heart of Illinois Down Syndrome Association (HOIDSA), I was able to attend the conference. The following report is a summary of information gathered at the conference and information from the CMF's website and blog.
The terms neurobiology and neuroscience can be used interchangeably. They refer to the biology or science of the nervous system. Researchers in the Department of Neuroscience at Stanford University are dedicated to developing theraputic strategies for normalizing cognition in people with Down syndrome Neurotransmitters regulate learning. In the brain of a person with Down syndrome these neurotransmitters are a little off or out of balance. They need a remedy to bring them back into balance. The good news is that we can treat this imbalance just like any other psychiatric disorder – with modern medicine. Just as life
expectancy has improved since 1983 with medical advancements, cognition can be improved with medical advancements - now!
What Problems are Addressed by the CMF Protocol?
The Changing Minds Foundation (CMF) has created a treatment protocol to address four of the neurological problems identified in Down syndrome. Most people with Down syndrome fall into the mild to moderat range of intellectual disability so even a small increase in cognitive ability (or IQ) can move an individual from being dependent on others throughout their lives to becoming independent members of society. The following is based on information taken from CMF's website and conference handbook.
Brain Problem 1: The major cause of cognitive impairment in mouse models of Down syndrome is over inhibition by the GABA receptor system. In 2003, Stanford University researchers discovered that the GABA receptor, an inhibitor, was continuously stimulated. Since the GABA receptor is an inhibitor of brain function, this stimulation actually causes a decrease in cognition. The nerves in the memory area of the brain are prevented from firing efficiently. Another way we can think about this is the use of alcohol or benzodiazepenes, (Valium and Versed). Both alcohol, Valium and Versed stimulate GABA receptors in the
brain. This results in slowed activity in the brain. Just as many of us have seen people's brains (and thus cognitive function) altered by alcohol or tranquilizers so too may the brain of one with Down syndrome be slowed by over-inhibition.
Related Articles for Problem 1:
Stanford, PTZ, & GABA
Ginkgo Biloba & GABA
Remedy for Brain Problem 1: To get the proper level of GABA (so that learning can occur), a GABA antagonist was used to turn the inhibition down. Bilobalide, a component of Ginkgo Biloba extract, reversed the cognitive impairment in the mouse model. Stanford researchers are raising money to do a formal clinical trial with a GABA antagonist drug called PTZ, but it is not yet approved by the FDA - and this process will unfortunately take up to 10 years.
Ginkgo Biloba (also a GABA antagonist) is widely available in health food stores - now. Participants using the CMF protocol are realizing good results using Ginkgo Biloba. We now know that lack of memory is the lock on the door of learning for people with Down syndrome. Ginkgo Biloba is the key for opening the door of learning! Protocol participants as young as five weeks old are using Ginkgo Biloba.
Check in Tomorrow for Brain Problem # 2