Williams Syndrome Research: A whole person approach

Principal Investigator: Elisabeth Dykens, Ph.D.

Other researchers: Sasha Key, PhD


Williams syndrome is a genetic disorder associated with intellectual disabilities and a striking profile of cognitive and behavioral strengths and challenges. Persons with Williams syndrome tend to be verbal, engaging, and fascinated by sounds and music. Many have well-developed musical gifts and talents. Caused by a deletion or small missing piece on one of the chromosome 7’s, Williams syndrome is associated with cardiac disease and other medical challenges. Persons with Williams syndrome may become quite anxious or worried about such things as loud sounds, stormy weather, or what others think of them.

At the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center, we are using a whole person approach to identify both the strengths and weaknesses of youth and adults with Williams syndrome. Using interviews and neuroimaging we are studying music, empathy, and social skills, and how these strengths might be used to offset anxiety or fears. We are also identifying the stresses and joys that parents experience in raising their children with Williams syndrome. Much of this work is accomplished during our summer music camp program.

Participant Criteria

Persons with Williams Syndrome



Visit Requirements



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Contact Information

Elizabeth Roof,
(615) 343-3330

Last Updated: Monday, April 22, 2013

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