Elvis Presley’s sultry singing voice may hold the key to understanding the social deficits affecting some with developmental disabilities, new research suggests.
Using Presley’s “Love Me Tender” and a handful of other songs, scientists say they were able to obtain a better understanding of the biological triggers involved in Williams syndrome, a developmental disorder marked by extreme friendliness.
The findings could also have implications for those with conditions ranging from autism to anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, researchers said.
For the study, music was played for 13 people with Williams syndrome and eight typically developing individuals in an effort to elicit an emotional response. Blood was drawn from each study participant before the music started and while it played in order to measure levels of two hormones — oxytocin and arginine vasopressin.
Oxytocin levels in particular increased in those with Williams syndrome when they listened to the music, with levels bouncing as the songs played. However, study participants without the condition exhibited little change in hormone levels, according to the research published this month in the journal PLoS ONE.
The findings suggest that oxytocin and arginine vasopressin are not well regulated in those with Williams syndrome, the researchers said.
“The association between abnormal levels of oxytocin and AVP and altered social behaviors found in people with Williams Syndrome points to surprising, entirely unsuspected deleted genes involved in regulation of these hormones and human sociability,” said Julie Korenberg of the University of Utah who worked on the study.