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J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 1999 Oct;38(10):1294-301.

Premutation female carriers of fragile X syndrome: a pilot study on brain anatomy and metabolism.

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  • 1Department of Psychological Medicine, Institute of Psychiatry, London, England.



It was thought that premutation carriers of fragile X syndrome (FraX) have no neurobiological abnormalities, but there have been no quantitative studies of brain morphometry and metabolism. Thus the authors investigated brain structure and metabolism in premutation carriers of FraX.


Eight normal IQ, healthy female permutation FraX carriers aged 39 +/- 9 years (mean +/- SD) and 32 age-sex-handedness-matched controls (39 +/- 10 years) were studied; in vivo brain morphometry was measured using volumetric magnetic resonances imaging, and regional cerebral metabolic rates for glucose were measured using positron emission tomography and (18F)-2-fluoro-2-deoxy-D-glucose.


Compared with controls, FraX premutation carriers had a significant (1) decrease in volume of whole brain, and caudate and thalamic nuclei bilaterally; (2) increase in volume of hippocampus and peripheral CSF bilaterally, and third ventricle; (3) relative hypometabolism of right parietal, temporal, and occipital association areas; (4) bilateral relative hypermetabolism of hippocampus; (5) relative hypermetabolism of left cerebellum; and (6) difference in right-left asymmetry of the Wernicke and Broca language areas.


Premutation carriers of FraX, as defined by analysis of peripheral lymphocytes, have abnormalities in brain anatomy and metabolism. The biological basis for this is unknown, but most likely it includes tissue heterogeneity for mutation status. The findings may be of relevance to people counseling families with FraX and to understanding other neuropsychiatric disorders which are associated with expansion of triplet repeats and genetic anticipation.

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