Electrodermal responses to sensory stimuli in individuals with fragile X syndrome: A preliminary report

Lucy Jane Miller, D. N. McIntosh, J. McGrath, V. Shyu, M. Lampe, A. K. Taylor, Flora Tassone, K. Neitzel, T. Stackhouse, Randi J Hagerman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

301 Scopus citations


The fragile X mutation and fragile X syndrome are associated with hyperarousal, hyperactivity, aggression, and anxiety. These may be related to strong reactions to auditory, tactile, visual, and olfactory stimuli [Hagerman, 1996b; Hagerman and Cronister, 1996]. However, almost no data exist describing hyperarousal and sensory sensitivity in individuals with the fragile X mutation. This study establishes a reliable laboratory paradigm for examining reactions to sensory stimuli. We found the pattern of electrodermal responses (EDRs) to stimulation in one sensory modality predicted the pattern of EDRs in four other sensory systems. In addition, the EDR pattern of individuals with the fragile X mutation was related to their FMR-protein expression. Finally, EDRs in individuals with fragile X syndrome were significantly different from those of normal controls, demonstrating greater magnitude, more responses per stimulation, responses on a greater proportion of trials, and lower rates of habituation. The findings support the theory that individuals with fragile X syndrome have a physiologically based enhancement of reactions to sensations. Because electrodermal activity indexes sympathetic nervous system activity, the data suggest that the over- arousal to sensation may involve the sympathetic system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)268-279
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Journal of Medical Genetics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Electrodermal response
  • Fragile X syndrome
  • Sensory defensiveness
  • Sensory integration
  • Sensory modulation disorder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics(clinical)


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