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Durham University

Centre for Developmental Disorders

Williams Syndrome Research

Durham University is the home of the North East Williams Syndrome Research Group

What is Williams Syndrome?

Williams syndrome is a relatively rare neuro-developmental disorder caused by the sporadic deletion of approximately 25-28 genes on chromosome 7. Prevalence is reported to be approximately 1:20,000. The disorder is associated with interesting aspects of cognition (eg. a dissociation between relatively good language in comparison to poorer spatial skills), extraordinary facets of social behaviour (eg. increased sociability but social vulnerability) and the presence of psychopathology (e.g. increased anxiety, sensory processing difficulties).

Across the various projects that we are running we explore components of behaviour associated with children and adults who have Williams syndrome.

Find out more about Williams syndrome from the UK Williams syndrome Foundation website.

You can also follow our WS group facebook page:


If you are interested in taking part in our work please contact Professor Debbie Riby.

We are currently recruiting individuals with Williams syndrome for a number of projects.

Our general email for all WS research is

Supporting WS families at a time of uncertainty - covid19

Professor Debbie Riby worked with the Williams Syndrome Foundation to produce flyers for families on 'Anxiety in Uncertain Times' as we are aware that anxiety levels at particularly high, and that for individuals with WS who are suspectible to heightened anxiety, who often prefer regular routines, and who may also have additional medical difficulties this is a particularly dififcult time. This flyer has been distributed via social media and to all UK WS families via the WSF magazine for their members (April 2020 edition). The flyer has also been translated into several languages and distributed to families via support networks in these regions. You can find the English, French, Spanish, German, Dutch, Czech and Serbian versions of the flyer below.

We advise that WS families follow the guidance of Public Health England and further information is also available on the WSF website.

If you have any questions please email