Is white matter development altered in infants with fragile X syndrome?
In this longitudinal imaging study of 27 infants with fragile X syndrome and 73 typically developing control infants, 12 of 19 major white matter tracts investigated were significantly diminished in infants with fragile X syndrome compared with controls.
The effects of fragile X gene expression on the early development of white matter structural connectivity are well established at 6 months of age.
Fragile X syndrome (FXS) is a genetic neurodevelopmental disorder and the most common inherited cause of intellectual disability in males. However, there are no published data on brain development in children with FXS during infancy.
To characterize the development of white matter at ages 6, 12, and 24 months in infants with FXS compared with that of typically developing controls.
Design, Setting, and Participants
Longitudinal behavioral and brain imaging data were collected at 1 or more time points from 27 infants with FXS and 73 typically developing controls between August 1, 2008, and June 14, 2016, at 2 academic medical centers. Infants in the control group had no first- or second-degree relatives with intellectual or psychiatric disorders, including FXS and autism spectrum disorder.
Main Outcomes and Measures
Nineteen major white matter pathways were defined in common atlas space based on anatomically informed methods. Diffusion parameters, including fractional anisotropy, were compared between groups using linear mixed effects modeling. Fiber pathways showing group differences were subsequently examined in association with direct measures of verbal and nonverbal development.
There were significant differences in the development of 12 of 19 fiber tracts between the 27 infants with FXS (22 boys and 5 girls) and the 73 infants in the control group (46 boys and 27 girls), with lower fractional anisotropy in bilateral subcortical-frontal, occipital-temporal, temporal-frontal, and cerebellar-thalamic pathways, as well as 4 of 6 subdivisions of the corpus callosum. For all 12 of these pathways, there were significant main effects between groups but not for the interaction of age × group, indicating that lower fractional anisotropy was present and stable from age 6 months in infants with FXS. Lower fractional anisotropy values in the uncinate fasciculi were correlated with lower nonverbal developmental quotient in the FXS group (left uncinate, F = 10.06; false discovery rate–corrected P = .03; right uncinate, F = 21.8; P = .004).
Conclusions and Relevance
The results substantiate in human infants the essential role of fragile X gene expression in the early development of white matter. The findings also suggest that the neurodevelopmental effects of FXS are well established at 6 months of age.
Swanson MR, Wolff JJ, Shen MD, et al. Development of White Matter Circuitry in Infants With Fragile X Syndrome. JAMA Psychiatry. 2018;75(5):505–513. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2018.0180
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