Document Type


Publication Date


Journal / Book Title

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences


The capacity to reorient in one's environment is a fundamental part of the spatial cognitive systems of both humans and nonhuman species. Abundant literature has shown that human adults and toddlers, rats, chicks, and fish accomplish reorientation through the construction and use of geometric representations of surrounding layouts, including the lengths of surfaces and their intersection. Does the development of this reorientation system rely on specific genes and their action in brain development? We tested reorientation in individuals who have Williams syndrome (WS), a genetic disorder that results in abnormalities of hippocampal and parietal areas of the brain known to be involved in reorientation.We found that in a rectangular chamber devoid of surface feature information, WS individuals do not use the geometry of the chamber to reorient, failing to find a hidden object. The failure among people with WS cannot be explained by more general deficits in visual-spatial working memory, as the same individuals performed at ceiling in a similar task in which they were not disoriented. We also found that performance among people with WS improves in a rectangular chamber with one blue wall, suggesting that some individuals with WS can use the blue wall feature to locate the hidden object. These results show that the geometric system used for reorientation in humans can be selectively damaged by specific genetic and neural abnormalities in humans.



Published Citation

Lakusta, L., Dessalegn, B., & Landau, B. (2010). Impaired geometric reorientation caused by genetic defect. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107(7), 2813-2817.

Included in

Psychology Commons