OBJECTIVE: This study sought to determine whether volumes of the hippocampus and amygdala are disproportionately smaller in subjects with Down's syndrome than in normal comparison subjects and whether volume reduction is greater in Down's syndrome subjects with dementia. METHOD: The subjects were 25 adults with Down's syndrome (eight with dementia) and 25 cognitively normal adults who were individually matched on age, sex, and race. Magnetic resonance imaging measures included volumes of the hippocampus, amygdala, and total brain. Nineteen of the Down's syndrome subjects had follow-up scans (interscan interval = 9-41 months). RESULTS: Nondemented Down's syndrome subjects had significantly smaller volumes of the hippocampus, but not the amygdala, than their comparison subjects, even when total brain volume was controlled for. Volumes of both the hippocampus and the amygdala were smaller in the demented Down's syndrome subjects than in their comparison subjects, even when total brain volume was controlled for. Age was not correlated with volume of the hippocampus or amygdala among the nondemented Down's syndrome subjects and the comparison subjects; age was correlated with volume of the amygdala, but not the hippocampus, among the Down's syndrome subjects with dementia. Changes in volume over time were not statistically significant for either the demented or the nondemented subjects. CONCLUSIONS: Hippocampal volume, while disproportionately small for brain size in individuals with Down's syndrome, remains fairly constant through the fifth decade of life in those without dementia. All subjects over age 50 who had Down's syndrome demonstrated volume reduction in the hippocampus as well as clinical signs of dementia. Dementia was also associated with volume reductions in the amygdala that exceeded reductions in total brain volume.
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