White matter alterations in Williams syndrome related to behavioral and motor impairments

Ariel Nir, Boaz Barak*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Myelin is the electrical insulator surrounding the neuronal axon that makes up the white matter (WM) of the brain. It helps increase axonal conduction velocity (CV) by inducing saltatory conduction. Damage to the myelin sheath and WM is associated with many neurological and psychiatric disorders. Decreasing myelin deficits, and thus improving axonal conduction, has the potential to serve as a therapeutic mechanism for reducing the severity of some of these disorders. Myelin deficits have been previously linked to abnormalities in social behavior, suggesting an interplay between brain connectivity and sociability. This review focuses on Williams syndrome (WS), a genetic disorder characterized by neurocognitive characteristics and motor abnormalities, mainly known for its hypersociability characteristic. We discuss fundamental aspects of WM in WS and how its alterations can affect motor abilities and social behavior. Overall, findings regarding changes in myelin genes and alterations in WM structure in WS suggest new targets for drug therapy aimed at improving conduction properties and altering brain-activity synchronization in this disorder.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-19
Number of pages15
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • Williams syndrome
  • clemastine
  • motor abilities
  • myelin
  • neuron–glia interaction
  • social behavior
  • white matter


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