People with Williams syndrome, a genetic disorder that produces cognitive impairment and other symptoms, are extraordinarily sociable and outgoing, but also prone to excessive worrying. Brain areas involved in anxiety have abnormal activity in these individuals, according to a paper in the August 2005 issue of Nature Neuroscience. These findings may help pinpoint the neural circuits that are affected in this unusual genetic disorder.
Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg and colleagues imaged the brains of adults with Williams syndrome while they viewed images of emotional faces or scary scenes. The brain circuit that may be important for regulating emotional responses during threatening situations was less active for angry faces, but more for scary scenes. As Williams syndrome is transmitted genetically, the authors suggest that these results may shed light on how genes alter the function of brain mechanisms of social and emotional behavior.
Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg (Clinical Brain Disorders Branch, IRP, Bethesda, MD, USA)
Also published online.
(C) Nature Neuroscience press release.
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