Neurobiological basis for cognitive development and psychiatric conditions remains unexplored in children with the FMR1 premutation (PM). Knock-in mouse models of PM revealed defects in embryonic cortical development that may affect cortical folding. Cortical-folding complexity quantified using local gyrification index (LGI) was examined in 61 children (age 8–12 years, 19/14 male/female PM carriers, 15/13 male/female controls). Whole-brain vertex-wise analysis of LGI was performed for group comparisons and correlations with IQ. Individuals with aberrant gyrification in 68 cortical areas were identified using Z-scores of LGI (hyper: Z ≥ 2.58, hypo: Z ≤ − 2.58). Significant group-by-sex-by-age interaction in LGI was detected in right inferior temporal and fusiform cortices, which correlated negatively with CGG repeat length in the PM carriers. Sixteen PM boys (hyper/hypo: 7/9) and 10 PM girls (hyper/hypo: 2/5, 3 both) displayed aberrant LGI in 1–17 regions/person while 2 control boys (hyper/hypo: 0/2) and 2 control girls (hyper/hypo: 1/1) met the same criteria in only 1 region/person. LGI in the precuneus and cingulate cortices correlated positively with IQ scores in PM and control boys while negatively in PM girls and no significant correlation in control girls. These findings reveal aberrant gyrification, which may underlie cognitive performance in children with the PM.
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