Reduced vagal tone in women with the FMR1 premutation is associated with FMR1 mRNA but not depression or anxiety

Jessica Klusek, Giuseppe LaFauci, Tatyana Adayev, W. Ted Brown, Flora Tassone, Jane E. Roberts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Background: Autonomic dysfunction is implicated in a range of psychological conditions, including depression and anxiety. The fragile X mental retardation-1 (FMR1) premutation is a common genetic mutation that affects ~1:150 women and is associated with psychological vulnerability. This study examined cardiac indicators of autonomic function among women with the FMR1 premutation and control women as potential biomarkers for psychological risk that may be linked to FMR1. Methods: Baseline inter-beat interval and respiratory sinus arrhythmia (a measure of parasympathetic vagal tone) were measured in 35 women with the FMR1 premutation and 28 controls. The women completed anxiety and depression questionnaires. FMR1 genetic indices (i.e., CGG repeat, quantitative FMRP, FMR1 mRNA, activation ratio) were obtained for the premutation group. Results: Respiratory sinus arrhythmia was reduced in the FMR1 premutation group relative to controls. While depression symptoms were associated with reduced respiratory sinus arrhythmia among control women, these variables were unrelated in the FMR1 premutation. Elevated FMR1 mRNA was associated with higher respiratory sinus arrhythmia. Conclusions: Women with the FMR1 premutation demonstrated autonomic dysregulation characterized by reduced vagal tone. Unlike patterns observed in the general population and in study controls, vagal activity and depression symptoms were decoupled in women with the FMR1 premutation, suggesting independence between autonomic regulation and psychopathological symptoms that is atypical and potentially specific to the FMR1 premutation. The association between vagal tone and mRNA suggests that molecular variation associated with FMR1 plays a role in autonomic regulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number16
JournalJournal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 2 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • FMR1 mRNA
  • FMRP
  • Fragile X carriers
  • Heart rate
  • Physiological arousal
  • Vagal tone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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