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Trends Neurosci. 1999 May;22(5):197-207.

Bridging cognition, the brain and molecular genetics: evidence from Williams syndrome.

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  • 1The Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA.


Williams syndrome (WMS) is a rare sporadic disorder that yields a distinctive profile of medical, cognitive, neurophysiological, neuroanatomical and genetic characteristics. The cognitive hallmark of WMS is a dissociation between language and face processing (relative strengths) and spatial cognition (profound impairment). Individuals with WMS also tend to be overly social, behavior that is opposite to that seen in autism. A genetic hallmark of WMS is a deletion on chromosome band 7q11.23. Williams syndrome is also associated with specific neuromorphological and neurophysiological profiles: proportional sparing of frontal, limbic and neocerebellar structures is seen using MRI; and abnormal functional organization of the neural systems that underlie both language and face processing is revealed through studies using event-related potentials. The non-uniformity in the cognitive, neuromorphological and neurophysiological domains of WMS make it a compelling model for elucidating the relationships between cognition, the brain and, ultimately, the genes.

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