Auditory attraction: Activation of visual cortex by music and sound in Williams syndrome

Tricia A. Thornton-Wells, Christopher J. Cannistraci, W. Anderson Adam, Kim Chai-Youn Kim, Eapen Mariam Eapen, C. Gore John, Blake Randolph Blake, M. Dykens Elisabeth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Williams syndrome is a genetic neurodevelopmental disorder with a distinctive phenotype, including cognitive-linguistic features, nonsocial anxiety, and a strong attraction to music. We performed functional MRI studies examining brain responses to musical and other types of auditory stimuli in young adults with Williams syndrome and typically developing controls. In Study 1, the Williams syndrome group exhibited unforeseen activations of the visual cortex to musical stimuli, and it was this novel finding that became the focus of two subsequent studies. Using retinotopy, color localizers, and additional sound conditions, we identified specific visual areas in subjects with Williams syndrome that were activated by both musical and nonmusical auditory stimuli. The results, similar to synesthetic-like experiences, have implications for cross-modal sensory processing in typical and atypical neurodevelopment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)172-189
Number of pages18
JournalAmerican Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2010
Externally publishedYes


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