Down syndrome (Trisomy 21 or T21) and Williams syndrome (WS) are genetic disorders characterized by mental retardation and impaired abilities to process visuospatial information. Nevertheless, the ability of individuals with Down syndrome or Williams syndrome to navigate in the real word have not been well studied. The goal of this study is to characterize this capacity in these individuals.

Our brains have different ways of representing space. If we are static, space is represented in an egocentric manner, in relation to our own body: For example, object X is located directly in front of me. In contrast, when we move space is represented in an allocentric manner, and the location of objects is coded in relation to other objects constituting the environment, independently of our own body.

This project will study the real-world spatial capacities of individuals with T21 and WS. Our findings will allow us to better characterize the cognitive capacities of people with genetic abnormalities, and to better understand how the human brain contributes to the spatial representation of our environment.

Understanding the capabilities of spatial representations in people with T21 and WS may contribute to the development of compensatory learning strategies permitting greater autonomy in these individuals.


  • Association Suisse du Syndrome de Williams (Switzerland)
  • ART21 Association Romande Trisomie 21  (Switzerland)
  • Associazione Famiglie Sindrome di Williams (Milano, Italy)
  • Associazione Genitori Sindrome di Williams (Italy)
  • Associazione Italiana Persone Down (Italy)

Dauer des Projekts

01.01.2016 - 31.12.2021


Prof. Dr. Pamela Banta Lavenex
Prof. Dr. Pamela Banta Lavenex Associate professor
Pierre Lavenex
Pierre Lavenex Ph.D. Co-PI, Laboratory of Brain and Cognitive Development, Institute of Psychology, University of Lausanne
Mathilde Bostelmann
Mathilde Bostelmann Doctoral student, University of Lausanne
Emilie Bochud
Emilie Bochud Doctoral student, University of Lausanne
Stefano Vicari
Stefano Vicari Ph.D. Collaborator, Bambino Gesù Children’s Hospital, Rome