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Decoding the genetics of speech and language

Graham, S. A., & Fisher, S. E. (2013). Decoding the genetics of speech and language. Current Opinion in Neurobiology, 23, 43-51. doi:10.1016/j.conb.2012.11.006.
Researchers are beginning to uncover the neurogenetic pathways that underlie our unparalleled capacity for spoken language. Initial clues come from identification of genetic risk factors implicated in developmental language disorders. The underlying genetic architecture is complex, involving a range of molecular mechanisms. For example, rare protein-coding mutations of the FOXP2 transcription factor cause severe problems with sequencing of speech sounds, while common genetic risk variants of small effect size in genes like CNTNAP2, ATP2C2 and CMIP are associated with typical forms of language impairment. In this article, we describe how investigations of these and other candidate genes, in humans, animals and cellular models, are unravelling the connections between genes and cognition. This depends on interdisciplinary research at multiple levels, from determining molecular interactions and functional roles in neural cell-biology all the way through to effects on brain structure and activity.
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The Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics is an institute of the German Max Planck Society. Our mission is to undertake basic research into the psychological,social and biological foundations of language. The goal is to understand how our minds and brains process language, how language interacts with other aspects of mind, and how we can learn languages of quite different types.

The institute is situated on the campus of the Radboud University. We participate in the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, and have particularly close ties to that institute's Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging. We also participate in the Centre for Language Studies. A joint graduate school, the IMPRS in Language Sciences, links the Donders Institute, the CLS and the MPI.

 

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