Medical Research Council - Clinical Services Centre

Social Connections
25 October 2016

Social Connections

Williams Syndrome is a rare genetic condition that can result in learning difficulties. This condition can cause a host of medical problems, with the most common symptoms including heart defects, distinctive facial features, and delays in neurological development. Despite this, people with Williams Syndrome are known to be very social, but also anxious. To get a clearer insight into how this genetic difference can vastly affect behaviour, researchers programmed neural cells (donated from children with Williams Syndrome) in a dish in the lab to form networks to mimic a developing cortex of the brain. They found that these neurons failed to replicate at a high level, reducing the overall surface area of the cortex. The neurons also made more complex connections to other neurons than the team expected (pictured). These findings could underlie the behaviour seen in people with Williams Syndrome. And improve our understanding of human behaviour in general.

Written by Katie Panteli

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