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Collaborative Success Stories: Course of Action

girl with down syndrome

A University of Missouri researcher has helped identify treatment for a deterioration that leaves some people with Down syndrome unable to act.

Down syndrome is the most common chromosomal disorder in America. Unfortunately, some adolescents and young adults with Down syndrome experience significant deterioration in movement, speech and functioning—leaving them unable to talk or perform activities of daily living.

Previously, physicians thought the regression, which has not responded to treatments, was induced by depression or early-onset Alzheimer’s. Now, MU scientist Dr. Judith Miles and researchers from the University of Michigan have discovered that the treatable disorder Catatonia can be the cause. The team found that individuals with regressive Down syndrome showed improvement when they were treated for Catatonia.

Additionally, the study suggests that Catatonia may affect young people with other developmental disorders, including Fragile X syndrome and autism. Because Catatonia can usually be treated successfully, individuals who were relegated to lives of incapacity may regain their usual levels of activity.

The team’s work was published in the journal Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment. Miles is now conducting further research to better understand Catatonia in developmental disorders. “The wonderful thing is that Catatonia is a treatable cause of regression,” says Miles.

Dr. Judith Miles is professor emerita in the School of Medicine and a researcher with MU’s Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders.

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Related Initiative(s):
One Health/One Medicine