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Elvis Tune Offers Insight On Developmental Disabilities


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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.

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Comments (6 Responses)

  1. Darla says:

    Based on a VERY small study of 21 individuals (13 with a specific syndrome, 8 non-affected) these people are drawing general conclusions for those with that specific syndrome and others with other diagnosis? This should NEVER have been reported until confirmation with a wider controlled study was done. This is placing possibly FALSE conclusions and labeling on individuals who may or may not exhibit that element in their behavior. Irresponsible and cruel.

  2. Howie says:

    Maybe they were just Elvis fans.

  3. Nancy says:

    Although there is merit in further investigation of AVP and oxtocin regulation, the study reported above is flawed. Because the investigators did not have a sham group, (people w/ williams syndrome who would have all the other sensory inputs of a blood draw) this study does not show that the effects of the music elicited the difference in hormone levels.

  4. margie says:

    I agree – what a lame “study”. Some scientists somewhere have set the bar low.

  5. margie says:

    Good one, Howie

  6. KA101 says:

    Hmm…I agree that the sample size seems too small, & Nancy’s point about controlling for placebo (the sham group) is valid. But I don’t think the study is something that would normally attempt to walk around. It’s just a sheaf of papers/electronically stored data/whatever.

    Doesn’t seem like a “lame” study to me. More like an “invalid” study. Perhaps a lame study might study people with mobility issues? Thanks for your consideration.

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