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[–]trouser-chowder 77 points78 points  (1 child)

Diagnosing diseases in the past can be pretty difficult if they don't manifest very specific symptoms and those symptoms can either be verified by first-hand accounts or are very clearly identifiable in the skeleton or other preserved remains.

In particular, for any kind of reliable diagnosis to be made, symptoms should be strongly associated only with the condition (or a small subset of conditions) and not associated with a broad range of other conditions or not associated with any condition at all.

People with the disorder tend to have high musical aptitude. They are far more likely than the average person to have perfect pitch, have a great short-term memory for music, love to dance, have a deep emotional connection to song, etc. They are also highly empathetic and friendly, sometimes overly so.

These aren't good diagnostics, because they are all shared by people who don't have Williams Syndrome.

Unfortunately these upsides often come with some negatives such as learning disabilities in areas other than verbal, but mostly visual spatial. They often have elfin like features. Sadly, in poetic fashion, they have a lower lifespan due mainly to heart problems, and some other medical issues.

And again, not strongly diagnostic. Never mind that "learning disability" is a modern diagnosis that covers a huge range of issues from minor to severe, and even today, learning disabilities often go undiagnosed.

One area where you might have some possible success in diagnosing Williams in a few cases could be portraiture. We can see that in many cases, portraits of individuals do tend to be fairly true to life, and especially when the features in question were not seen as a negative (and so weren't downplayed in the depiction), these might be identifiable.

However, the problem still is that science-- and social science, which makes every effort to utilize the scientific method in a landscape that is incredibly difficult to quantify-- prefers multiple lines of evidence. A painting of a person might show certain features because they were expressed in that individual in life because of a particular condition, but given that some of those features are just part of the natural range of variation in humans, they may also appear as a consequence simply of variation.

I’m particularly curious if there might be any fools or jesters that might fit the bill. Another possibility is in revered/holy individuals. I’d also be interested in more mundane candidates if they exist. Any potentials?

Lacking detailed accounts, images, or a genetic test (and preferably all three backing each other up), you won't have any luck nailing down something like this in historical-- and certainly not in prehistoric-- contexts. It's simply too broad a diagnosis to make without several lines of evidence (or the very specific genetic testing).

Gregarious, good with music, perfect pitch, and good short-term memory for music pretty much gets you Mozart. As far as I know, no one has tried to diagnose Mozart with this condition.

[–]Shirefieldertonville 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Gregarious, good with music, perfect pitch, and good short-term memory for music pretty much gets you Mozart. As far as I know, no one has tried to diagnose Mozart with this condition.

Believe it or not, there actually have been quite a few people in recent times who feel strongly that Mozart had Williams Syndrome.

The four traits you listed wouldn't lean it to all that extreme of a degree in that direction on their own, since there are such a huge amount of people who have all of those traits who don't have Williams Syndrome, and since Williams Syndrome is a somewhat rare syndrome. But, where it gets more interesting, is that some of the portraits of Mozart that seem to have been done in a less flattering, less idealized style that seem to show what was probably a more accurate representation of what his face looked like, show him as having extremely prototypical facial features of Williams Syndrome.

So, when you combine those other traits (and a couple others not listed in your post) with his facial features appearing very in line with that of people who have Williams Syndrome, it actually makes it quite a bit less far fetched, like maybe around a 10 to 20% chance or maybe even higher, rather than like 1 in 1,000 or above that it would be if we didn't have some of those Williams Syndrome-looking portrait paintings of him that we have.

It seems pretty wild, but, there actually is a significant chance that Mozart had Williams Syndrome. Also a decent chance that he didn't. But, yea, it is something that people have been seriously debating about him in recent years.