Williams syndrome (WS) is a genetic condition caused by a hemizygous microdeletion on chromosome 7q11.23. WS is characterized by a distinctive social phenotype composed of increased drive toward social engagement and attention toward faces. In addition, individuals with WS exhibit abnormal structure and function of brain regions important for the processing of faces such as the fusiform gyrus. This study was designed to investigate if white matter tracts related to the fusiform gyrus in WS exhibit abnormal structural integrity as compared to typically developing (TD; age matched) and developmentally delayed (DD; intelligence quotient matched) controls. Using diffusion tensor imaging data collected from 40 (20 WS, 10 TD and 10 DD) participants, white matter fibers were reconstructed that project through the fusiform gyrus and two control regions (caudate and the genu of the corpus callosum). Macro-structural integrity was assessed by calculating the total volume of reconstructed fibers and micro-structural integrity was assessed by calculating fractional anisotropy (FA) and fiber density index (FDi) of reconstructed fibers. WS participants, as compared to controls, exhibited an increase in the volume of reconstructed fibers and an increase in FA and FDi for fibers projecting through the fusiform gyrus. No between-group differences were observed in the fibers that project through the control regions. Although preliminary, these results provide further evidence that the brain anatomy important for processing faces is abnormal in WS.
© 2011 The Authors. Genes, Brain and Behavior © 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd and International Behavioural and Neural Genetics Society.