Music, the Brain, and Williams Syndrome

Gloria Lenhoff is a 46-year-old lyric soprano singer who has performed with such diverse groups as the San Diego Master Chorale and members of Aerosmith. She can sing nearly 2,500 songs in more than 25 languages, reportedly in a perfect accent. She even has perfect pitch. But the rest of her world is not perfect. Gloria is affected by a rare genetic disorder called Williams syndrome. With an IQ of about 55, Gloria literally cannot subtract three from five or make change for a dollar. But what

Brendan Maher
Nov 25, 2001
Gloria Lenhoff is a 46-year-old lyric soprano singer who has performed with such diverse groups as the San Diego Master Chorale and members of Aerosmith. She can sing nearly 2,500 songs in more than 25 languages, reportedly in a perfect accent. She even has perfect pitch.

But the rest of her world is not perfect. Gloria is affected by a rare genetic disorder called Williams syndrome. With an IQ of about 55, Gloria literally cannot subtract three from five or make change for a dollar. But what she and others with her affliction share is music. Innately connected, they often have an astute grasp of music's technical aspects-the beat, rhythm, tone, and timbre.

Identified more than 40 years ago, Williams syndrome results from non-homologous recombination during gametogenesis that deletes about 20 genes on one copy of chromosome 7.1 Characteristics of Williams syndrome include pixie-like features-upturned nose, small chin, protrusive...