Towards the neural basis for hypersociability in a genetic syndrome

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WILLIAMS syndrome (WMS), a rare disorder with a distinctive profile of medical, psychological, neurophysiological and neuroanatomical characteristics, results from hemizygous deletion of about 20 genes. The phenotype exhibits specific dissociations in higher cognitive functions: general cognitive deficits but spared linguistic abilities; extreme spatial cognitive deficits, but intact face processing. Of special interest is an unusual social phenotype in WMS: an overly friendly, engaging personality and excessive sociability with strangers. In this first experimental study of social behavior in WMS, we report that WMS subjects show an abnormal positive bias in their social judgments of unfamiliar individuals, consistent with their behavior in real life. Our findings contribute to an understanding of the neural and genetic bases of human social behavior.

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