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.