-C. Paula de los Angeles
As discussed in class, FOXP2, a human gene thought to be involved in language, may provide clues as to how the brain or more specially, music developed. A recent study done by Dr. Enard of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig just published a paper in Cell on their findings of their newly genetically engineered strain of mice whose FOXP2 gene has been swapped out for the human version.
The insert of the human FOX2 gene changed multiple functions in the mice, including the sounds that mice use to communicate with each other. In fact, when these mice were isolated, they whistled at lower pitches. Dr. Enard confirmed that the human version of FOXP2 was a perfect substitute for the mouse version in all of the tissues except. Specifically, in the basal ganglia of the brain, these genetically engineered mice had more complexly structured nerve cells.
Perhaps, this study sheds greater light on the role of FOXP2 in language and brain development. Previous studies only concluded that a defect in this gene led to speech, articulation, and grammar problems. The expression of this gene in mice has great potential for future studies.
Primary article: http://www.cell.com/fulltext/S0092-8674(09)00378-X
News article: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/29/science/29mouse.html?_r=1&ref=science