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Williams syndrome and its cognitive profile: the importance of eye movements

Authors Van Herwegen J

Received 21 January 2015

Accepted for publication 7 April 2015

Published 3 June 2015 Volume 2015:8 Pages 143—151

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/PRBM.S63474

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 5

Editor who approved publication: Professor Igor Elman


Jo Van Herwegen

Department of Psychology, Kingston University London, Surrey, UK

Abstract: People with Williams syndrome (WS), a rare neurodevelopmental disorder that is caused by a deletion on the long arm of chromosome 7, often show an uneven cognitive profile with participants performing better on language and face recognition tasks, in contrast to visuospatial and number tasks. Recent studies have shown that this specific cognitive profile in WS is a result of atypical developmental processes that interact with and affect brain development from infancy onward. Using examples from language, face processing, number, and visuospatial studies, this review evaluates current evidence from eye-tracking and developmental studies and argues that domain general processes, such as the ability to plan or execute saccades, influence the development of these domain-specific outcomes. Although more research on eye movements in WS is required, the importance of eye movements for cognitive development suggests a possible intervention pathway to improve cognitive abilities in this population.

Keywords: Williams syndrome, eye movements, face processing, language, number, visuospatial abilities

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