Neural response to repeated auditory stimuli and its association with early language ability in male children with Fragile X syndrome

Background: Fragile X syndrome (FXS) is the most prevalent form of inherited intellectual disability and is commonly associated with autism. Previous studies have linked the structural and functional alterations in FXS with impaired sensory processing and sensory hypersensitivity, which may hinder the early development of cognitive functions such as language comprehension. In this study, we compared the P1 response of the auditory evoked potential and its habituation to repeated auditory stimuli in male children (2-7 years old) with and without FXS, and examined their association with clinical measures in these two groups.

Methods: We collected high-density electroencephalography (EEG) data in an auditory oddball paradigm from 12 male children with FXS and 11 age- and sex-matched typically developing (TD) children. After standardized EEG pre-processing, we conducted a spatial principal component (PC) analysis and identified two major PCs-a frontal PC and a temporal PC. Within each PC, we compared the P1 amplitude and inter-trial phase coherence (ITPC) between the two groups, and performed a series of linear regression analysis to study the association between these EEG measures and several clinical measures, including assessment scores for language abilities, non-verbal skills, and sensory hypersensitivity.

Results: At the temporal PC, both early and late standard stimuli evoked a larger P1 response in FXS compared to TD participants. For temporal ITPC, the TD group showed greater habituation than the FXS group. However, neither group showed significant habituation of the frontal or temporal P1 response. Despite lack of habituation, exploratory analysis of brain-behavior associations observed that within the FXS group, reduced frontal P1 response to late standard stimuli, and increased frontal P1 habituation were both associated with better language scores.

Conclusion: We identified P1 amplitude and ITPC in the temporal region as a contrasting EEG phenotype between the FXS and the TD groups. However, only frontal P1 response and habituation were associated with language measures. Larger longitudinal studies are required to determine whether these EEG measures could be used as biomarkers for language development in patients with FXS.

Keywords: EEG; ERP; Fragile X syndrome; autism; language; neural habituation; phase coherence.



Winko WA, Nelson CA, Wilkinson CL