Williams syndrome (WS) is a rare genetic disorder that results in profound spatial cognitive deficits. We examined whether individuals with WS have intact perception of biological motion, which requires global spatial integration of local motion signals into a unitary percept of a human form. Children with WS, normal mental-age-matched children, and normal adults viewed point-light-walker (PLW) displays portraying a human figure walking to the left or right. Children with WS were as good as or better than control children in their ability to judge the walker's direction, even when it was masked with dynamic noise that mimicked the local motion of the PLW lights. These results show that mechanisms underlying the perception of at least some kinds of biological motion are unimpaired in children with WS. They provide the first evidence of selective sparing of a specialized spatial system in individuals with a known genetic impairment.
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