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BACKGROUND: Individuals with Down syndrome are predisposed to a number of chronic health conditions, but the relationship between these conditions and cognitive ability is not clear. The primary objective of this systematic review is to assess this relationship by evaluating studies that measure cognitive performance in the context of Down syndrome-associated chronic health conditions.

METHODS: A systematic review was conducted in accordance with the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis (PRISMA) guidelines. Studies included in this review (1) included children, adolescent, and young adult participants with Down syndrome and one or more co-occurring health conditions; (2) were quantitative; and (3) reported outcomes related to both chronic health conditions and cognitive performance. A set of predetermined chronic health conditions that are common in Down syndrome (e.g. sleep disorders, congenital heart disease, thyroid disease, seizure disorders, and pulmonary hypertension) were selected based on prevalence rates in Down syndrome.

RESULTS: Fifteen studies met inclusion criteria. The majority these of studies assessed cognitive performance in association with sleep disorders (47%) and congenital heart disease (47%). Fewer studies reported on the effect of thyroid disease (7%) and seizure disorders (7%) on cognitive ability. None of the studies reported cognitive outcomes related to pulmonary hypertension. Of the chronic health conditions evaluated, associations between sleep disorders and cognitive dysfunction were most common among individuals with Down syndrome.

CONCLUSIONS: Individuals with Down syndrome exhibit deficits in cognitive ability, particularly related to attention, executive function and verbal processing. These deficits may be further exacerbated by the presence of chronic health conditions, particularly sleep disorders. Individuals with Down syndrome and co-occurring sleep disorders may benefit from early interventions to mitigate their risk for adverse cognitive outcomes.


Adolescent, Cardiovascular Diseases, Child, Chronic Disease, Cognition Disorders, Down Syndrome, Epilepsy, Female, Humans, Lung Diseases, Male, Sleep Wake Disorders, Thyroid Diseases, Young Adult

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