Visual Behavior Impairments as an Aberrant Sensory Processing in the Mouse Model of Fragile X Syndrome

Front Behav Neurosci. 2019 Oct 2;13:228. doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2019.00228. eCollection 2019.


Fragile X Syndrome (FXS), the most common inherited form of human intellectual disability (ID) associated with autistic-like behaviors, is characterized by dys-sensitivity to sensory stimuli, especially vision. In the absence of Fragile Mental Retardation Protein (FMRP), both retinal and cerebral structures of the visual pathway are impaired, suggesting that perception and integration of visual stimuli are altered. However, behavioral consequences of these defects remain unknown. In this study, we used male Fmr1 -/y mice to further define visual disturbances from a behavioral perspective by focusing on three traits characterizing visual modality: perception of depth, contrasts and movements. We performed specific tests (Optomotor Drum, Visual Cliff) to evaluate these visual modalities, their evolution from youth to adulthood, and to assess their involvement in a cognitive task. We show that Fmr1 -/y mice exhibit alteration in their visual skills, displaying impaired perspective perception, a drop in their ability to understand a moving contrasted pattern, and a defect in contrasts discrimination. Interestingly, Fmr1 -/y phenotypes remain stable over time from adolescence to late adulthood. Besides, we report that color and shape are meaningful for the achievement of a cognitive test involving object recognition. Altogether, these results underline the significance of visual behavior alterations in FXS conditions and relevance of assessing visual skills in neuropsychiatric models before performing behavioral tasks, such as cognitive assessments, that involve visual discrimination.

Keywords: FMRP; Fmr1−/y mice; Fragile X Syndrome; contrast sensitivity; depth perception; sensory sensitivity; visual abilities.