You are here: Home Departments Language and Genetics News

Language and Genetics -


Otto Hahn Medal for Sara Busquets Estruch
Apr 13, 2019
Each year, the Max Planck Society awards up to 30 young scientists and researchers for outstanding scientific achievements with the Otto Hahn Medal. Sara Busquets Estruch of the MPI for Psycholinguistics will receive this prestigious award for her work that has uncovered novel molecular pathways implicated in severe developmental speech and language disorders. more >
New research suggests “f” and “v” are recent speech sounds worldwide
Mar 15, 2019
MPI's Dan Dediu en Scott Moisik are involved in new research published in the March 15 edition of Science magazine that could revise our understanding of the history of language. more >
Neandertal genes shed light on unique aspects of the modern human brain
Dec 13, 2018
A characteristic feature of modern humans is the unusually round skull and brain, in contrast to the elongated shape seen in other human species. By studying Neandertal DNA fragments found in the genomes of living Europeans, scientists have now discovered genes that influence this globular shape. An interdisciplinary research team, led by the Max Planck Institutes for Psycholinguistics and Evolutionary Anthropology, brought together fossil skull data, brain imaging and genomics, as reported in Current Biology. more >
A newly identified disorder of human brain development, with macrocephaly and impaired speech and language
Nov 06, 2018
Some genes are especially important for regulating the development of the human brain. When a child carries a mutation disrupting one of those genes, this can lead to problems with aspects of cognitive development, including speech and language impairments. In a study published in Nature Communications, an international team of researchers and clinicians, led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute’s Language & Genetics Department, identify a new disorder of human brain development, caused by rare mutations in a gene named CHD3, and show that the mutations interfere with the way that this gene works. more >
Genes, Memes and Tremes. The Future of Artificial Intelligence | Lecture by psychologist Susan Blackmore
Oct 05, 2018
In an exciting event jointly sponsored by Radboud Reflects and the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics Susan Blackmore will visit Nijmegen on October 29th to talk about the evolution of technology and the emergence of new forms of intelligence. more >
SFARI Pilot Award
Sep 13, 2018
Dr. Beate St Pourcain, group leader at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, has been granted a SFARI Pilot Award for her project ‘Disentangling autism heterogeneity through multivariate genetic analyses’. SFARI has announced that it intends to fund 36 grants (15 Pilot Awards and 21 Research Awards) in response to the 2018 Pilot and Research Awards request for applications. These grants will support investigator-driven research projects that aim to improve our understanding of autism spectrum disorders and to gain insight that will ultimately lead to novel diagnostic and therapeutic approaches. more >
What a speech deficit looks like at the cellular level
Jun 11, 2018
Some children never learn to speak as proficiently as expected. In rare cases the cause is a single mutation that has disrupted a gene in the affected child. A gene contains instructions to build a protein. But how could a damaged protein lead to problems with spoken language? In her thesis, Sara Busquets Estruch investigated several of these proteins to discover what they do at a cellular level and what happens when they are broken. more >
A new map of asymmetry in the human brain
May 16, 2018
A research team led by the MPI for Psycholinguistics has compared a massive number of 17,141 brain scans to examine the similarity in anatomy of the left and right brain halves. The brains of people from all over the world, male or female, young and old, appear asymmetrical on average. The results are immensely valuable to neuroscientists - to be used as a solid reference for studying both the healthy and the diseased brain. more >
Seeing sounds: researchers uncover molecular clues for synaesthesia
Mar 05, 2018
1 in 25 people have synaesthesia, perceiving the world in unusual ways. An experience with one sense automatically leads to perception in another sense: for example, seeing colours when listening to music. Now researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics and the University of Cambridge report clues into biological origins of such variations in human perception. They studied families with synaesthesia, and describe genetic changes that might contribute to their differences in sensory experience. more >
Handedness arises from genes in the spinal cords of embryos
Feb 07, 2017
The left side of the spinal cord matures slightly faster than the right side in human embryos of four to eight weeks age. This is the earliest left-right difference of development in the human nervous system yet discovered. An international team led by scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics and Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour revealed this by studying the activity levels of many genes. more >
Biology of variation in anatomical brain asymmetries
Jan 31, 2017
Left-right asymmetry is an important aspect of brain organization, which is of relevance to human evolution, higher cognitive functions, and cognitive disorders. Tulio Guadalupe’s dissertation assessed the effects of various biological factors on natural variability in anatomical brain asymmetries. Guadalupe will defend his thesis on Thursday, February 2 at 12:30 in the Aula of the Radboud University. more >
Genes affecting our communication skills relate to genes for psychiatric disorder
Jan 03, 2017
By screening thousands of individuals, an international team led by researchers of the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, the University of Bristol, the Broad Institute and the iPSYCH consortium has provided new insights into the relationship between genes that confer risk for autism or schizophrenia and genes that influence our ability to communicate during the course of development. more >
Amaia Carrión Castillo defends thesis “Deciphering common and rare genetic effects on reading ability”
Nov 02, 2016
How do our genes affect how good we are at reading? Amaia Carrión Castillo of the MPI Language and Genetics Department addresses this question in her PhD thesis ‘Deciphering common and rare genetic effects on reading ability’, which she will defend on 7 November 2016. more >
Martin Becker to defend thesis on understanding the regulation of the FOXP2 gene in the brain
Oct 21, 2016
People with FOXP2 mutations develop speech and language problems. Causative mutations in the vicinity of the gene can impair the production of the FOXP2 gene product. Martin Becker has identified DNA-sequences that regulate the production of FOXP2 and determined their activity in human cells and mouse brains. The findings may facilitate the identification of mutations causing speech problems and help understand the role of FOXP2 in normal brain development. more >
The courtship song of male mice is disrupted by a genetic mutation known to affect human speech
Oct 20, 2016
Male mice with a Foxp2 mutation known to disturb human speech, produce less sophisticated ‘songs’ according to a new study by a team of scientists from Duke University and the Max Planck for Psycholinguistics. The mice make ultrasonic calls with normal acoustic structure, but when wooing a female their songs are unusually short and the sequence of syllables is not as complex. more >
New intellectual disability syndrome caused by genetic damage to single gene
Jul 22, 2016
Scientists at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics have found a gene responsible for an intellectual disability disorder including developmental speech and language problems. The research, published in the American Journal of Human Genetics, details the role of a gene called BCL11A in a new intellectual disability syndrome. more >
Sonja Vernes awarded with Human Frontiers Scientific Program grant
Apr 14, 2016
Bats share a rare ability with humans – they learn how to make their calls in a way similar to how children learn to speak. Sonja Vernes was awarded a Human Frontiers Scientific Program Research Grant with the goal of modeling this vocal learning ability in bats to shed light on how and why humans learn to speak. Together with collaborators from the Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, Technical University of Munich and University of California at Berkeley, she received 1.2 million dollars to set out this novel line of research. more >
Autism genes affect behavior throughout the whole population
Mar 24, 2016
The genetic risk factors contributing to autism spectrum disorders are present in all of us. This is shown in a new study of over 38.000 people in 5 countries carried out by an international team of researchers from the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, the University of Bristol and universities in Australia and Denmark. The study was published in Nature Genetics this week. more >
Genomic regions responsible for gene expression contribute to normal variation of the human brain
Feb 29, 2016
Common differences in our DNA (genetic variants) contribute to individual differences in many aspects of our biology, including the size of individual brain regions. In 2015, the ENIGMA consortium, a global group of scientists including members of the MPI Language and Genetics Dept., found new associations between variation in the volume of specific brain structures and genetic variants in healthy adults. A new study from the Language and Genetics Dept., published in Human Brain Mapping this week, extends the ENIGMA consortium's results and describes a new method to identify subtle genetic associations. more >
IMPRS student Tulya Kavaklioglu competes in FameLab Netherlands finals
Feb 19, 2016
Scientists are so passionate about their work that they often work long hours. But can they also explain it in clear terms — and in only 180 seconds? Tulya Kavaklioglu from the Language and Genetics Department took up the challenge in the scientific pitch competition FameLab, and won herself a ticket to the national finals. more >
It’s easier to learn words that sound like what they mean
Feb 11, 2016
Over a lifetime, we learn tens of thousands of words. What makes some words easier to learn than others? Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics taught Japanese words to Dutch students and found that ideophones —words that sound like what they mean— are easier to learn than regular words. This may be due to universally available associations between sound and meaning. more >
Bat genes could provide fresh clues about the neurobiology of human speech
Jan 04, 2016
Although humans are the only species with the ability to use sophisticated spoken language, some of the characteristic features of language are also present in the communication systems of other animals. A new study led by the Neurogenetics of Vocal Communication group at the MPI for Psycholinguistics shows that bats in particular could provide novel insights into the biological basis of human language. more >
New artworks for the Language and Genetics Department unveiled
Dec 10, 2015
Two specially-commissioned artworks for the new wing of the MPI for Psycholinguistics were unveiled on 9 December 2015, with introductions from the artists themselves. more >
Thesis prize for Midas Anijs for research into rare brain disorder
Nov 11, 2015
The Dutch Rett Syndrome Society has awarded its annual prize for the best Master's thesis to MPI PhD student Midas Anijs, for his innovative research into Rett syndrome using miniature 'brains' grown in the laboratory. more >
New Max Planck Research Group awarded to Sonja Vernes to study genetics of vocal communication
Oct 15, 2015
Dr Sonja Vernes has been awarded an independent Max Planck Research Group by the Max Planck Society. The new group, which will be hosted by the MPI for Psycholinguistics, will study the genetic foundations of vocal communication in mammals, providing a novel gateway into understanding the biological underpinnings of human language. more >
Awards for Language and Genetics researchers presenting at major conferences this autumn
Sep 11, 2015
Several Language and Genetics Department researchers will be presenting new research at conferences in autumn 2015. Dr Pelagia Deriziotis has received an award from the Society for Neuroscience to attend their annual meeting in Chicago. more >
Alessandro Gialluisi defends PhD thesis 'Investigating the genetic basis of reading and language skills'
Sep 09, 2015
How do our genes affect how good we are at reading and speaking? Alessandro Gialluisi of the MPI Language and Genetics Department addresses this question in his PhD thesis 'Investigating the genetic basis of reading and language skills', which he will defend on 11 September 2015. more >
Bringing science to life at the MPI Open Day
Jul 13, 2015
As the Max Planck Institute welcomed hundreds of visitors to its Open Day, researchers from the Language and Genetics Department found some creative ways to demonstrate how we are researching the connections between genes and language. more >
Everything you always wanted to know about our research
Jun 24, 2015
We will open our doors to everyone interested during the Open Day on Saturday June 27. We have also prepared a short film about the basic questions motivating our work: A Celebration of Language. On top of that, we have just published our Research Report, in which we detail our research highlights over the past two years. more >
Princess Laurentien opens new wing of the Max Planck Institute
Jun 15, 2015
Princess Laurentien joined Max Planck Institute staff and special guests on 10 June 2015 to celebrate the official opening of the new wing of the institute. more >
Language and Genetics


Street address
Wundtlaan 1
6525 XD Nijmegen
The Netherlands

Mailing address
P.O. Box 310
6500 AH Nijmegen
The Netherlands

Phone: +31-24-3521443
Fax: +31-24-3521213


Simon E. Fisher

Martina Bernhard