Reduced parietal and visual cortical activation during global processing in Williams syndrome


* Correspondence to last author at Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University School of Medicine, 401 Quarry Road, Stanford, CA 94305-5719, USA. E-mail:


Several lines of investigation suggest that individuals with Williams syndrome (WS), a neurodevelopmental disorder of well-characterized genetic etiology, have selective impairments in integrating local image elements into global configurations. We compared global processing abilities in 10 clinically and genetically diagnosed participants with WS (eight females, two males; mean age 31y 10mo [SD 9y 7mo], range 15y 5mo-48y 4mo) with a typically developed (TD) age- and sex-matched comparison group (seven females, one male; mean age 35y 2mo [SD 10y 10mo], range 24y-54y 7mo) using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Behavioral data showed participants with WS to be significantly less accurate (p<0.042) together with a non-significant trend to be slower than the TD comparison group while performing the global processing task. fMRI data showed participants with WS to possess reduced activation in the visual and parietal cortices. Participants with WS also showed relatively normal activation in the ventral occipitotemporal cortex, but elevated activation in several posterior thalamic nuclei. These preliminary results largely confirm previous research findings and neural models implicating neurodevelopmental abnormalities in extended subcortical and cortical visual systems in WS, most notably dorsal-stream pathways.