Children with Williams syndrome, a rare form of autism, love music and will spend hours listening to it. This is further evidence that the ability to compose and appreciate music lies in one specific portion of the brain. We already know that the ability to recognize other people and read a watch take place in specific parts of the brain. Despite averaging a relatively low IQ score of 60 (the average is 100), many of them possess a great memory for songs and an uncanny sense of rhythm. Their hearing is so good that they can identify different vacuum cleaner brands, just by listening to them. Some people have speculated that Mozart had some sort of strange genetic condition. He could have had Williams syndrome.

People with Williams syndrome are irresistibly drawn to strangers, remember names and faces with ease, show strong empathy and have fluent and exceptionally expressive language. Yet, they are confounded by the visual world around them: While they can’t scribble more than a few rudimentary lines when they try to draw an object like an elephant, they can verbally describe one in almost poetic detail.

A new study has identified structural abnormalities in a certain brain area of people afflicted with Williams syndrome that probably explains their savant-like musical skill. Researcher Allan L. Reiss says, “Williams syndrome is a perfect example where a genetic predisposition interacts with the environment to sculpt the brain in unique ways.”

It’s been discovered that children of men age 40 and older have a significantly increased risk of having children with autistic-like disorders, compared with fathers who are younger than 30. Autism and related conditions have become increasingly common, affecting 50 in every 10,000 children as compared with five in 10,000 two decades ago.

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