Selective spatial processing deficits in an at-risk subgroup of the fragile X premutation Academic Article uri icon


  • Until a decade ago, it was assumed that males with the fragile X premutation were unaffected by any cognitive phenotype. Here we examined the extent to which CGG repeat toxicity extends to visuospatial functioning in male fragile X premutation carriers who are asymptomatic for a late-onset neurodegenerative disorder, fragile X-associated tremor/ataxia syndrome (FXTAS). Thirty-three premutation males aged 20-68 years [divided into two groups: 16 low-repeat carriers (CGG ≥ 55 ≤ 100) and 17 high-repeat carriers (CGG>100)] with a family history of fragile X syndrome and 62 non-affected adult males with normal FMR1 alleles were recruited. Subjects underwent neuropsychological tests of visuospatial and visual working memory functioning and visuoperceptual processing. On measures of visuospatial processing, the high-repeat carriers performed significantly worse than the normal allele group when age and IQ were covaried out. With increasing age and only in carriers of a larger (>100 repeats) premutation allele was there a greater decrement in visuospatial working memory functioning. Performance on spatial and perceptual judgement tasks failed to show similar specificity in males within the upper premutation range. We conclude that identification of selective visuospatial impairments in carriers of a larger premutation allele indicates greater CGG repeat toxicity in specific neural regions. Longitudinal follow-up studies will be needed to determine whether subtle decline in visuospatial functioning is associated with the later onset of motor symptoms of FXTAS.

publication date

  • June 2012