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Published 2000 | Published
Journal Article Open

Hypersociability in Williams Syndrome


Studies of abnormal populations provide a rare opportunity for examining relationships between cognition, genotype and brain neurobiology, permitting comparisons across these different levels of analysis. In our studies, we investigate individuals with a rare, genetically based disorder called Williams syndrome (WMS) to draw links among these levels. A critical component of such a cross-domain undertaking is the clear delineation of the phenotype of the disorder in question. Of special interest in this paper is a relatively unexplored unusual social phenotype in WMS that includes an overfriendly and engaging personality. Four studies measuring distinct aspects of hypersocial behavior in WMS are presented, each probing specific aspects in WMS infants, toddlers, school age children, and adults. The abnormal profile of excessively social behavior represents an important component of the phenotype that may distinguish WMS from other developmental disorders. Furthermore, the studies show that the profile is observed across a wide range of ages, and emerges consistently across multiple experimental paradigms. These studies of hypersocial behavior in WMS promise to provide the groundwork for crossdisciplinary analyses of gene–brain–behavior relationships.

Additional Information

© 2000 The MIT Press. The research was supported by grants from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (P01 HD33113 to Ursula Bellugi, PD), the National Institute of Deafness and Communication Disorders (P50 DC01289, Project 3 to Ursula Bellugi, PI), and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Strokes (P50 NS22343, Project 3 to Ursula Bellugi, PI). The authors thank the Regional and National Williams syndrome Associations and the individuals with Williams syndrome who participated in these studies. "Linking Cognitive Science and Molecular Genetics: New Perspectives from Williams Syndrome," Ursula Bellugi and Marie St. George (Eds.). Special issue of Journal of Cognitive Neurocience, vol 12., Supplement, 2000.

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October 16, 2023