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'Trust' hormone oxytocin found at heart of rare genetic disorder
Date:6/22/2012

LA JOLLA, CA----The hormone oxytocin - often referred to as the "trust" hormone or "love hormone" for its role in stimulating emotional responses - plays an important role in Williams syndrome (WS), according to a study published June 12, 2012, in PLoS One.

The study, a collaboration between scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and the University of Utah, found that people with WS flushed with the hormones oxytocin and arginine vasopressin (AVP) when exposed to emotional triggers.

The findings may help in understanding human emotional and behavioral systems and lead to new treatments for devastating illnesses such as WS, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and possibly even autism.

"Williams syndrome results from a very clear genetic deletion, allowing us to explore the genetic and neuronal basis of social behavior," says Ursula Bellugi, the director of Salk's Laboratory for Cognitive Neuroscience and a co-author on the paper. "This study provides us with crucial information about genes and brain regions involved in the control of oxytocin and vasopressin, hormones that may play important roles in other disorders."

WS arises from a faulty recombination event during the development of sperm or egg cells. As a result, virtually everyone with WS has exactly the same set of genes missing (25 to 28 genes are missing from one of two copies of chromosome 7). There also are rare cases of individuals who retain one or more genes that most people with the disorder have lost.

To children with WS, people are much more comprehensible than inanimate objects. Despite myriad health problems they are extremely gregarious, irresistibly drawn to strangers, and insist on making eye contact. They have an affinity for music. But they also experience heightened anxiety, have an average IQ of 60, experience severe spatial-visual problems, and suffer from cardiovascular and other health issues. Despite
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Contact: Andy Hoang
ahoang@salk.edu
619-861-5811
Salk Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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