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J Intellect Disabil. 2006 Sep;10(3):261-74.

The cholinergic system in Down's syndrome.

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  • 1Department of Neurosciences, Psychiatric and Anesthesiological Sciences, University of Messina, Policlinico Universitario G Martino, Via C Valeria, Messina, Italy.


The cholinergic system is one of the most important modulatory neurotransmitter systems in the brain. Alterations of the transmission communicators are accompanied by reduction of the cortical activity, which is associated with a learning and memory deficit. Down's syndrome is a pathological condition characterized by a high number of abnormalities that involve the brain. The cholinergic system is involved in alterations of the neurological system such as severe learning difficulties. To explain these alterations, important results are obtained from studies about murine trisomy 16 (animal model of Down's syndrome). The results obtained provide useful elements in the improvement of knowledge about the neurological and neurotransmissional alterations that are responsible for the neurobiological characteristics of Down's syndrome. These data potentially justify, in these patients, the therapeutic use of drugs that are principally administered to improve the severe learning difficulties of people with Alzheimer's disease, and suggest a trend which generates a hypothesis worthy of further exploration.

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