JOURNAL ARTICLE

Lifespan changes in working memory in fragile X premutation males

Kim M Cornish, Cary S Kogan, Lexin Li, Jeremy Turk, Sebastien Jacquemont, Randi J Hagerman
Brain and Cognition 2009, 69 (3): 551-8
19114290
Fragile X syndrome is the world's most common hereditary cause of developmental delay in males and is now well characterized at the biological, brain and cognitive levels. The disorder is caused by the silencing of a single gene on the X chromosome, the FMR1 gene. The premutation (carrier) status, however, is less well documented but has an emerging literature that highlights a more subtle profile of executive cognitive deficiencies that mirror those reported in fully affected males. Rarely, however, has the issue of age-related declines in cognitive performance in premutation males been addressed. In the present study, we focus specifically on the cognitive domain of working memory and its subcomponents (verbal, spatial and central executive memory) and explore performance across a broad sample of premutation males aged 18-69 years matched on age and IQ to unaffected comparison males. We further tease apart the premutation status into those males with symptoms of the newly identified neurodegenerative disorder, the fragile X-associated tremor/ataxia syndrome (FXTAS) and those males currently symptom-free. Our findings indicate a specific vulnerability in premutation males on tasks that require simultaneous manipulation and storage of new information, so-called executive control of memory. Furthermore, this vulnerability appears to exist regardless of the presence of FXTAS symptoms. Males with FXTAS symptoms demonstrated a more general impairment encompassing phonological working memory in addition to central executive working memory. Among asymptomatic premutation males, we observed the novel finding of a relationship between increased CGG repeat size and impairment to central executive working memory.

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