Genetic pathways implicated in speech and language
Vernes, S. C., & Fisher, S. E.
Genetic pathways implicated in speech and language. In S. Helekar (Ed.
), Animal models of speech and language disorders
(pp. 13-40). New York: Springer. doi:10.1007/978-1-4614-8400-4_2.
Disorders of speech and language are highly heritable, providing strong
support for a genetic basis. However, the underlying genetic architecture is complex,
involving multiple risk factors. This chapter begins by discussing genetic loci associated
with common multifactorial language-related impairments and goes on to
detail the only gene (known as FOXP2) to be directly implicated in a rare monogenic
speech and language disorder. Although FOXP2 was initially uncovered in
humans, model systems have been invaluable in progressing our understanding of
the function of this gene and its associated pathways in language-related areas of the
brain. Research in species from mouse to songbird has revealed effects of this gene
on relevant behaviours including acquisition of motor skills and learned vocalisations
and demonstrated a role for Foxp2 in neuronal connectivity and signalling,
particularly in the striatum. Animal models have also facilitated the identification of
wider neurogenetic networks thought to be involved in language development and
disorder and allowed the investigation of new candidate genes for disorders involving
language, such as CNTNAP2 and FOXP1. Ongoing work in animal models promises
to yield new insights into the genetic and neural mechanisms underlying human
speech and language