A rare genetic disorder called Williams-Beuren syndrome (WBS) is providing
new insights into regions of the brain involved in human social behavior,
according to research by scientists at the National Institute of Mental Health.
The study was published online on July 10 in Nature Neuroscience (Meyer-Lindenberg et al. http://www.nature.com/neuro/).
Using functional neuroimaging, the investigators were able to detect
changes in specific brain networks that help explain why individuals with
WBS are highly social and empathetic even with strangers yet have phobias
and excessive worrying in nonsocial settings. When 13 participants with WBS
were shown pictures of angry or fearful faces, the amygdala showed considerably
reduced brain activation compared with the amygdala of matched controls; viewing
pictures of threatening scenes without people caused the amygdala response
to be abnormally increased in those with WBS.
Hampton T. The Brain and Behavior. JAMA. 2005;294(8):893. doi:10.1001/jama.294.8.893-d