Fragile X-associated tremor ataxia syndrome is an inherited neurodegenerative disorder caused by premutation expansions (55–200 CGG repeats) of the FMR1 gene. There is accumulating evidence to suggest that early cognitive and brain imaging signs may be observed in some premutation carriers without motor signs of FXTAS, but few studies have examined the relationships between subcortical brain volumes and cognitive performance in this group. This study examined the relationships between caudate volume and select cognitive measures (executive function and information processing speed) in men at risk of developing FXTAS and controls with normal FMR1 alleles (<45 CGG repeats). The results showed that men with premutation alleles performed worse on measures of executive function and information processing speed, and had significantly reduced caudate volume, compared to controls. Smaller caudate volume in the premutation group was associated with slower processing speed. These findings provide preliminary evidence that early reductions in caudate volume may be associated with cognitive slowing in men with the premutation who do not present with cardinal motor signs of FXTAS. If confirmed in future studies with larger PM cohorts, these findings will have important implications for the identification of sensitive measures with potential utility for tracking cognitive decline.
- Executive function
- FMR1 premutation
- Fragile X-associated tremor ataxia syndrome
- Information processing speed