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J Neurosci. 2010 May 12;30(19):6700-12. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4268-09.2010.

The fusiform face area is enlarged in Williams syndrome.

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Department of Psychology, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305, USA.


Williams syndrome (WS) is a genetic condition characterized by atypical brain structure, cognitive deficits, and a life-long fascination with faces. Face recognition is relatively spared in WS, despite abnormalities in aspects of face processing and structural alterations in the fusiform gyrus, part of the ventral visual stream. Thus, face recognition in WS may be subserved by abnormal neural substrates in the ventral stream. To test this hypothesis, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging and examined the fusiform face area (FFA), which is implicated in face recognition in typically developed (TD) individuals, but its role in WS is not well understood. We found that the FFA was approximately two times larger among WS than TD participants (both absolutely and relative to the fusiform gyrus), despite apparently normal levels of face recognition performance on a Benton face recognition test. Thus, a larger FFA may play a role in face recognition proficiency among WS.

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