The present study contrasted physiological arousal in infants and toddlers with fragile X syndrome to typically developing control participants and examined physiological predictors early in development to autism severity later in development in fragile X syndrome. Thirty-one males with fragile X syndrome (ages 8–40 months) and 25 age-matched control participants were included. The group with fragile X syndrome showed shorter interbeat intervals (IBIs), lower vagal tone (VT), and less modulation of IBI. Data suggested a nonlinear effect with IBI and autistic behavior; however, a linear effect with VT and autistic behavior emerged. These findings suggest that atypical physiological arousal emerges within the first year and predicts severity of autistic behavior in fragile X syndrome. These relationships are complex and dynamic, likely reflecting endogenous factors assumed to reflect atypical brain function secondary to reduced fragile X mental retardation protein. This research has important implications for the early identification and treatment of autistic behaviors in young children with fragile X syndrome.

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