Saturday, June 20, 2009

'He can be a real baby now'

'He can be a real baby now' | KOMO News - Seattle, Washington | Local & Regional:

"Cody was just six months old when doctors diagnosed him with Williams syndrome, a genetic disorder that causes heart and vessel problems.

Local doctors had done all they could for the baby, but his parents found a doctor in Cleveland who thought he could do more. So they took off across the country, banking on a chance.

'There's not always a good outcome but there's a chance and that's what we're hoping on is that chance,' said Mitchell.

And that chance paid off. Cody underwent surgery on April 27 and spent a couple of weeks in the hospital.

'He pulled through really well and they were able to open up quite a few of the arteries,' Mitchell said."

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Cookie Mondays..... Ice Cream Sundays

Happy Birthday Harrison!:

"Well, for Harrison, it was approaching the microphone at his high school graduation two weeks ago, and delighting the crowd with a few of those famous knock-knock jokes. In that crowd, of course, a very proud and tearful family."

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Williams Syndrome and Social Fearlessness

Williams Syndrome and Social Fearlessness

Using a brain scanner, a team of scientists at Stanford University studied the brain activation as people with and without Williams syndrome looked at pictures of facial expressions: happy, neutral, or afraid.

Like a previous study, the scientists found that the amygdala in Williams syndrome was rather unmoved by the afraid faces. It's as though their brain did not register that those faces were something to feel nervous about, and might explain the hallmark social fearlessness of Williams syndrome.

But—and this was the new finding—the amygdala was highly activated when people with Williams syndrome looked at happy faces.

It was the other way around for the group without the syndrome: The amygdala turned on to fearful faces but not so much to happy ones.

This doesn't mean that people with Williams syndrome are frightened by happy faces, says Brian Haas, Ph.D., first author of the study. Instead, he says it reflects what's emotionally riveting for people.

"Happy facial expressions may be more rewarding for those with Williams syndrome," Haas says. "This may explain their increased drive and motivation to approach others and to socially interact."

This finding also fits with a broader picture of the amygdala that has been emerging recently. Rather than solely devoted to fear, the amygdala seems to deal with other strong emotions too, like sadness and happiness.

Haas says that the amygdala tunes into the things that are very relevant to us now and that can sway our feelings. So if you spot a snake, or watch a friend break into tears, the amygdala leaps to attention and points the brain's resources to these emotionally charged situations.

And for people with Williams syndrome, a happy face tugs powerfully on their attention. Haas hopes that this affinity for happy expressions may somehow be used to motivate or reinforce people with Williams syndrome when they are taught about what is socially appropriate. This could help those with the syndrome form closer social bonds with others, which often suffer due to their overly outgoing ways, he says.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

High School Student Wins Science Fair with Williams Syndrome Project

Montgomery News:

"This year’s project, “The Effect of Williams Syndrome on the Symmetry of the Planum Temporal in Musicians” won a second-place award in its category in this year’s Delaware Valley Science Fair, followed up with a first place in the May 17-19 Pennsylvania Junior Academy of Science competition at Penn State University.

The brain’s planum temporale controls language, auditory functions and pitch differentiation. Williams syndrome, which Keppley has been studying for the past few years, is a rare genetic condition that causes medical and developmental problems. People with the syndrome are also more likely to have musical skills."