The team ran functional magnetic resonance imaging scans on 16 adults with Williams syndrome and found their brains show an enormous amount of activity in the fusiform face area, which processes information about faces.
"Adults with Williams syndrome are also devoting about twice as much of their fusiform cortex to processing faces, compared to healthy adults," said Golijeh Golarai, a research associate in psychology. "It is a pretty significant difference."
Golarai is the lead author of a paper published this week in the Journal of Neuroscience that outlines the researchers' findings.
Because people with Williams syndrome are all missing the same genes, the researchers are using their findings to ask whether the heightened brain activity they've detected is rooted in their subjects' genetic makeup.
And the answers – which the researchers hope will come from more experiments they're planning – can help determine the degree to which genetics and experience shape social behavior in Williams syndrome, making a contribution to the "nature vs. nurture" discussion.
Monday, May 17, 2010
Stanford scientists learn how brains process faces