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Lateralization of gene expression in human language cortex

Karlebach, G., & Francks, C. (2015). Lateralization of gene expression in human language cortex. Cortex, 67, 30-36. doi:10.1016/j.cortex.2015.03.003.
Lateralization is an important aspect of the functional brain architecture for language and other cognitive faculties. The molecular genetic basis of human brain lateralization is unknown, and recent studies have suggested that gene expression in the cerebral cortex is bilaterally symmetrical. Here we have re-analyzed two transcriptomic datasets derived from post mortem human cerebral cortex, with a specific focus on superior temporal and auditory language cortex in adults. We applied an empirical Bayes approach to model differential left-right expression, together with gene ontology analysis and meta-analysis. There was robust and reproducible lateralization of individual genes and gene ontology groups that are likely to fine-tune the electrophysiological and neurotransmission properties of cortical circuits, most notably synaptic transmission, nervous system development and glutamate receptor activity. Our findings anchor the cerebral biology of language to the molecular genetic level. Future research in model systems may determine how these molecular signatures of neurophysiological lateralization effect fine-tuning of cerebral cortical function, differently in the two hemispheres.
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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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