Using novel control groups to dissect the amygdala's role in Williams syndrome

Tricia A. Thornton-Wells, Suzanne N. Avery, Jennifer Urbano Blackford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Williams syndrome is a neurodevelopmental disorder with an intriguing behavioral phenotype - hypersociability combined with significant non-social fears. Previous studies have demonstrated abnormalities in amygdala function in individuals with Williams syndrome compared to typically developing controls. However, it remains unclear whether the findings are related to the atypical neurodevelopment in Williams syndrome, or are also associated with behavioral traits at the extreme end of a normal continuum. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to compare amygdala blood-oxygenation-level-dependent (BOLD) responses to non-social and social images in individuals with Williams syndrome compared to either individuals with inhibited temperament (high non-social fear) or individuals with uninhibited temperament (high sociability). Individuals with Williams syndrome had larger amygdala BOLD responses when viewing the non-social fear images than the inhibited temperament control group. In contrast, when viewing both fear and neutral social images, individuals with Williams syndrome did not show smaller amygdala BOLD responses relative to the uninhibited temperament control group, but instead had amygdala responses proportionate to their sociability. These results suggest heightened amygdala response to non-social fear images is characteristic of WS, whereas variability in amygdala response to social fear images is proportionate to, and might be explained by, levels of trait sociability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)295-304
Number of pages10
JournalDevelopmental Cognitive Neuroscience
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Amygdala
  • Anxiety
  • Inhibited temperament
  • Sociability
  • Williams syndrome
  • fMRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Using novel control groups to dissect the amygdala's role in Williams syndrome'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this