Progressive cognitive deficits are common in patients with fragile X-associated tremor/ataxia syndrome (FXTAS), with no targeted treatment yet established. In this substudy of the first randomized controlled trial for FXTAS, we examined the effects of NMDA antagonist memantine on attention and working memory. Data were analyzed for patients (24 in each arm) who completed both the primary memantine trial and two EEG recordings (at baseline and follow-up) using an auditory "oddball" task. Results demonstrated significantly improved attention/working memory performance after one year only for the memantine group. The event-related potential P2 amplitude elicited by non-targets was significantly enhanced in the treated group, indicating memantine-associated improvement in attentional processes at the stimulus identification/discrimination level. P2 amplitude increase was positively correlated with improvement on the behavioral measure of attention/working memory during target detection. Analysis also revealed that memantine treatment normalized the P2 habituation effect at the follow-up visit. These findings indicate that memantine may benefit attentional processes that represent fundamental components of executive function/dysfunction, thought to comprise the core cognitive deficit in FXTAS. The results provide evidence of target engagement of memantine, as well as therapeutically relevant information that could further the development of specific cognitive or disease-modifying therapies for FXTAS.
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