Amygdala response to faces parallels social behavior in Williams syndrome

Bibliographic Collection: 
CARTA-Inspired Publication
Publication Type: Journal Article
Authors: Paul, B. M.; Snyder, A. Z.; Haist, F.; Raichle, M. E.; Bellugi, U.; Stiles, J.
Year of Publication: 2009
Journal: Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci
Volume: 4
Edition: 2009/07/28
Number: 3
Pagination: 278-85
Date Published: Sep
Type of Article: Research Support, N.I.H., ExtramuralResearch Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
Publication Language: eng
ISBN Number: 1749-5024 (Electronic)17
Keywords: *Face, Adolescent, Adult, Amygdala/blood supply/*physiopathology, Brain Mapping, Case-Control Studies, Child, Computer-Assisted/methods, Facial expression, Female, Humans, Image Processing, Male, Middle Aged, Neuropsychological Tests, Oxygen/blood, Photic

Individuals with Williams syndrome (WS), a genetically determined disorder, show relatively strong face-processing abilities despite poor visuospatial skills and depressed intellectual function. Interestingly, beginning early in childhood they also show an unusually high level of interest in face-to-face social interaction. We employed functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate physiological responses in face-sensitive brain regions, including ventral occipito-temporal cortex and the amygdala, in this unique genetic disorder. Participants included 17 individuals with WS, 17 age- and gender-matched healthy adults (chronological age-matched controls, CA) and 17 typically developing 8- to 9-year-old children (developmental age controls, DA). While engaged in a face discrimination task, WS participants failed to recruit the amygdala, unlike both CA and DA controls. WS fMRI responses in ventral occipito-temporal cortex, however, were comparable to those of DA controls. Given the integral role of the amygdala in social behavior, the failure of WS participants to recruit this region during face processing may be a neural correlate of the abnormally high sociability that characterizes this disorder.


Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2009 Sep;4(3):278-85. doi: 10.1093/scan/nsp023. Epub 2009 Jul 24.

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Alternate Journal: Social cognitive and affective neuroscience
Author Address:

Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA.