Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Williams syndrome (WMS), a genetic condition resulting from a contiguous deletion on the long arm of chromosome 7, is associated with a relatively consistent profile of neurocognitive and neurobehavioral features. The distinctiveness and regularity of the profile of learning and behavioral characteristics in this genetic condition suggests that underlying neurobiological correlates may be identifiable. In this initial study, we report findings derived from a high-resolution neuroimaging study of 14 young adult subjects with WMS and an individually matched normal control group. Compared to controls, subjects with WMS were noted to have decreased overall brain and cerebral volumes, relative preservation of cerebellar and superior temporal gyrus (STG) volumes, and disproportionate volume reduction of the brainstem. Analyses also suggested that the pattern of cerebral lobe proportions in WMS may be altered compared to normal controls with a greater ratio of frontal to posterior (parietal+occipital) tissue. Assessment of tissue composition indicated that, relative to controls, individuals with WMS have relative preservation of cerebral gray matter volume and disproportionate reduction in cerebral white matter volume. However, within the cerebral gray matter tissue compartment, the right occipital lobe was noted to have excess volume loss. Combined with our growing knowledge of the function of genes in the commonly deleted region for WMS, more detailed information regarding the structure and function of the WMS brain will provide a unique opportunity for elucidating meaningful correlations amongst genetic, neurobiological, and neurobehavioral factors in humans.