Williams Syndrome is a rare genetic condition [...].
"Little babies will come up to you, they will stare into your face, and it will be hard to actually disengage from that stare," explained Helen Tager-Flusberg whose lab at Boston University studies the social behavior of children with Williams. "When they're four or five...whether they know you or not, within about five minutes you're their new best friend."
One fascinating study by researchers in Europe found that children with Williams show no racial bias whatsoever. While children, even babies, prefer people of their own race, the neural pathway that imprints for race bias is somehow lacking in children with Williams.
Williams Syndrome is caused by the deletion of roughly 25 genes on chromosome 7. The deletion can occur randomly during the production of a sperm or egg cell. Though there are 20,000 to 25,000 genes in the human genome, even the loss of just 25 genes can have profound effects on a person's physical, behavioral and cognitive make-up.
In one experiment to test empathy, the adult experimenter bangs her knee on a table and expresses a great deal of pain. In many runs the lab recorded, the typically-developing child just watched and expressed no empathy or concern. But children with Williams often went right over to the experimenter to rub her knee and ask, "What's wrong?"
What do most children with Williams Syndrome do when presented with the creepy spider? They pet it.
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