Interhemispheric transmission time in persons with Down syndrome
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BACKGROUND: The study of cerebral specialization in persons with Down syndrome (DS) has revealed an anomalous pattern of organization. Specifically, persons with DS elicit a right cerebral hemisphere lateralization for receptive language and a left cerebral hemisphere lateralization for the production of simple and complex movements: a pattern quite different from the left hemisphere lateralization typically characterizing the aforementioned processes in the non-DS population. It is thought that the putative separation between speech perception and movement planning systems as well as the cost of interhemispheric integration impedes verbal-motor behaviours in persons with DS. Moreover, morphological anomalies of callosal structure may further amplify between-hemisphere communication difficulties in the DS population. In the present investigation, we employed a behavioural technique (i.e. the Poffenberger paradigm; Poffenberger) to determine whether global anomalies of callosal structure further amplify deficits in interhemispheric communication. METHODS: Fourteen individuals with DS and 25 chronological age-matched and gender-equated participants without intellectual disability performed a visuomotor reaction time (RT) test with their left or right hand to visual stimuli appearing left or right of visual fixation. Typically it is reported that responses to visual stimuli appearing ipsilateral to the responding hand (i.e. the uncrossed condition) are faster than responses wherein visual stimuli and responding hand are contralaterally mapped (i.e. the crossed condition). The increased RT associated with the crossed condition is reported on the order of 4 ms and has been interpreted to reflect the physiological result of interhemispheric transmission. RESULTS: Not surprisingly persons with DS exhibited slower and more variable RTs relative to control counterparts. In addition, a reliable RT advantage favouring the uncrossed conditions was observed among control participants but not persons with DS. CONCLUSIONS: In keeping with the extant literature, RT performance of the DS group was slower and more variable than control counterparts. This finding has been interpreted to reflect an 'adaptive reaction' wherein the perceptual-motor abilities of persons with DS are not optimized to respond to externally paced stimuli. In terms of evaluating interhemispheric transmission via the Poffenberger paradigm, our results show the finite measures of explicit brain-behaviour relations characterizing so-called healthy controls are not always tenable in the DS population. Indeed, we believe such a finding underpins the aforementioned 'adaptive reaction' exemplifying preferred movement control in persons with DS.
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