Judges’ Queries and Presenter’s Replies

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Presentation Discussion

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    Jay McClelland

    May 22, 2012 | 12:24 p.m.

    This is very interesting and well-done study but I do have some questions. The relationship with predictors shown at the bottom of the second panel raised two questions. Are these predictions controlled for the effects of the other predictors? Given the sign of the beta for production, is it the case that better performers produced correct l/r terms less? What do you make of that. Why should there be any relation to these measures given that the WS subjects as a group do just as well as normals in the all black rooms? Could 1-2 outliers in the WS group have produced these effects?

    Taken together I see these results as consistent with the view that, at least within the range of abilities (geometry and feature use) tapped by this task, the deficit in WS is general as opposed to specific — that is they are slower to use features and more affected by salience of geometry.

    Again, overall an interesting study that contributes to understanding of WS!

  • Icon for: Katrina Ferrara

    Katrina Ferrara

    May 22, 2012 | 03:14 p.m.

    Thank you for your comments and taking the time to review my research! You are picking up on several relationships that I also considered, but given our small sample size (16 participants), many fell short of significance when independently analyzed. As I described in one of my responses to the judges’ queries, older individuals with WS were more likely to have mastery of the terms left and right. However, age did not reliably predict geometric performance in the all-black rooms. Age was used as a control variable in the model illustrated at the bottom of the second panel, but no other factors were included as controls.

    I hypothesize that for individuals with WS, geometric sensitivity remains at a relatively fixed level, and doesn’t show the same type of gradual improvement over the lifespan that the use of featural information does. This implies that if geometry is fixed – it doesn’t much matter if you know your left or your right in terms of your performance in the reorientation paradigm. This point is made fairly obvious if we consider the performance of the TD kids – only one of them was able to reliably identify the left and right sides of objects, yet as a group they demonstrated a strong pattern of geometric search. This makes it clear that you don’t need to know your left and right in order to be sensitive to geometry. I believe this holds true for the WS population as well, and this is what is coming out in the negative beta value for left/right production, as you mentioned.

    I very much agree with your summary at the end of your comment – the WS population seems to be more dramatically affected by the salience of geometry than in the typically developing case. Lakusta et al. (2010) ran TD 4-year-olds in their version of the reorientation room with the panels at the corners, and performance looked very much like that demonstrated by the children is the present study.

  • Icon for: Lloyd Nackley

    Lloyd Nackley

    May 22, 2012 | 03:33 p.m.

    Thanks for sharing an interesting study. I found your hypothesis and results intriguing, esp. regarding the relationship with age of individuals. Do you know does WS affect language skills (not just left and right but also color recognition)? I ask, because I have heard that some studies attribute our abilities to identify colors as the ‘red wall’ or the ‘blue wall’ in our orientation activities and wondered if age might be related to cognitive development, and how WS might be related.

  • Icon for: Katrina Ferrara

    Katrina Ferrara

    May 23, 2012 | 10:18 a.m.

    Hi Lloyd, thanks for your comments. The language abilities of individuals with WS are relatively intact in comparison to their spatial understanding, but this is not to say that they are entirely on par with the typically developing case. Even though we didn’t directly test the comprehension of color terms, I’m fairly certain that all of our WS participants (even the youngest, age 5) know the color term “red.” However knowing the color term when it is asked of you, and bringing this linguistic label to the task of reorientation, are two very different things. I agree with your intuition that explicitly labeling the red wall as such is something that the younger members of the WS population may not have done when they were trying to locate the hidden target.

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Icon for: Katrina Ferrara


Johns Hopkins University
Years in Grad School: 2

Errors in reorientation: A study of typically developing children and individuals with Williams syndrome

When an organism has become disoriented, it must find a way to reestablish the relationship between itself and the environment. A wide range of research has demonstrated that both humans and animals achieve reorientation by forming a representation of the surrounding space based upon its geometry (e.g., the lengths of surfaces and their angles of intersection). However, research with one population has shown that many members do not reorient in accord with the geometry of a room. Williams syndrome (WS) is a disorder marked by the deletion of approximately 25 genes on chromosome 7, which presents with a cognitive profile that includes severely impaired spatial understanding and strikingly strong language. We tested reorientation in people with WS, as well as typically developing (TD) children. We found that many WS participants were able to successfully use geometry to locate a hidden target. These data enrich our understanding of the navigational abilities of the members of this population; some do possess a sensitivity to geometric relationships early in life. In terms of performance in the rooms with one red wall, the collective results of previous research and the present study indicate that successful landmark use develops at a rate that is much slower than in the typically developing case.