Neurobiology of social behavior abnormalities in autism and Williams syndrome

Social behavior is a basic behavior mediated by multiple brain regions and neural circuits, and is crucial for the survival and development of animals and humans. Two neuropsychiatric disorders that have prominent social behavior abnormalities are autism spectrum disorders (ASD), which is characterized mainly by hyposociability, and Williams syndrome (WS), whose subjects exhibit hypersociability. Here we review the unique properties of social behavior in ASD and WS, and discuss the major theories in social behavior in the context of these disorders. We conclude with a discussion of the research questions needing further exploration to enhance our understanding of social behavior abnormalities.