For young people with Down Syndrome, new research may hold the key to helping their learning.
Down Syndrome is a genetic condition where babies are born with one extra chromosome in their bodies.
These chromosomes direct the body on how to grow, but with the genetic mix-up, the directions can create distinct physical differences and intellectual impairment.
The chances of a baby being born with the chromosomal abnormality increase sharply with maternal age, particularly if the mother is over 35.
While there is no treatment or prevention of the condition, early intervention programs by health professionals and special education programs can help assist children to lead fulfilling lives.
Improving memory and learning
Current research is looking at how an ingredient formerly used in cough medicines and for a variety of other conditions can help improve memory, language and learning in people with Down Syndrome.
Associate Professor and Director of the Centre for Developmental Disability Health Victoria at Monash University, Bob Davis, says the early scientific research into this ingredient is quite promising.
"What the science has shown us is that the ingredient facilitates better nerve conductivity with better nerve conductivity in memory and reasoning skills."
The link between the ingredient and the possible benefits was first uncovered by research at Stanford University which was sponsored by a group of San Franciscan parents who all had children with Down Syndrome.
Investigations at the Stanford University Down Syndrome Research Centre have gone from looking at the basic science of what is different about the brain in Down Syndrome, to demonstrating the potential benefit of this ingredient in improving reasoning and memory capabilities of people with Down Syndrome.
Australia is leading further research, with current studies working with people with Down Syndrome aged between 13 and 35, to examine the effect of the ingredient and its potential benefit for cognitive function.
Scientists also hope that in time, research may also help link the ingredient with improvements in other cognitive conditions such as dementia.
"This has exciting potential to improve the quality of life for people with Down Syndrome," Davis says.