Successful Manipulation of Songs of Zebra Finches
Researchers at Freie Universität Prove Connection between Genetic Aberration and Speech Acquisition
№ 288/2007 from Dec 04, 2007
The researchers manipulated the areas of the brain in young finks that are important for learning songs, thereby reducing expression of the gene FOXP2. As a result, the finks were less well able to imitate the songs of the adult birds: their vocal imitations were incomplete and less perfect than usual. The results of this study may lead to conclusions regarding language acquisition in humans. The FOXP2 gene is apparently involved not only in the development of areas in the brain important for speech and singing, but it also steers the acquisition of these abilities by its involvement in controlling the mouth, tongue, and larynx. Patients with genetic mutations of FOX2, who suffer from the speech disorder called developmental verbal dyspraxia, speak in a simple manner – similar to the finks' vocalizations in the experiment. Their pronunciation is also more variable.