Neurobehavioral phenotype of Klinefelter syndrome

Ment Retard Dev Disabil Res Rev. 2000;6(2):107-16. doi: 10.1002/1098-2779(2000)6:2<107::AID-MRDD4>3.0.CO;2-2.


A defined genetic syndrome with neurobehavioral components offers an unusual paradigm for the correlation of genetic defects with neurodevelopmental abnormalities. The power of the combination of detailed behavioral, neuroanatomical, and genetic studies has been demonstrated in studies of other conditions involving the sex chromosomes, such as Fragile X syndrome (Mazzocco [2000] Ment Retard Develop Disabil Res Rev. 6:96-106) and Turner syndrome (Ross [2000] Ment Retard Develop Disabil Res Rev. 6:135-141). Although the behavioral and neurologic difficulties that have been identified in Klinefelter syndrome (KS) are in most cases milder than the consequences of many other genetic syndromes, the deficits in KS cause significant morbidity, representing a more common, but poorly understood, subtype of those with learning disabilities. Both as children and as adults, KS subjects appear to offer a powerful genetic model for the study of language and language-based learning disabilities. Although it has been proposed that the language-based learning difficulties of KS boys are similar to those of nonaneuploidic dyslexics [Bender et al., 1986; Geschwind et al., 1998], this is not yet well established. The co-morbid frontal-executive dysfunction observed in KS is also a likely contributor to learning difficulties and, perhaps, social cognition, in many KS patients. It is also proposed that altered left-hemisphere functioning, whether causing, or due to, altered functional and anatomical cerebral dominance, is at the core of KS subjects' language problems. Although X chromosomal loci can provide only part of the picture, the study of KS subjects, a population with a relatively homogeneous etiology for dyslexia/dysphasia and frontal-executive dysfunction, offers many advantages over such a study in the general population, in which both dyslexia and attentional disorders are quite genetically heterogeneous [Decker and Bender, 1988; Pennington, 1990; Grigorenko et al., 1997; Geschwind et al., 1998]. Furthermore, the interaction of genetic factors and hormonal influences in the cognitive phenotypes described remains an unexplored area for future investigation. MRDD Research Reviews 2000;6:117-124.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Behavior*
  • Dominance, Cerebral
  • Gene Dosage
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones / physiology
  • Humans
  • Intelligence
  • Klinefelter Syndrome / genetics
  • Klinefelter Syndrome / physiopathology*
  • Klinefelter Syndrome / psychology*
  • Language
  • Nervous System / physiopathology*
  • Phenotype


  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones