Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Does So-Called "Language Gene" Speed Learning?

At the neuroscience meeting, Schreiweis reported that mice with the human form of FOXP2 learn more quickly than ordinary mice. She challenged mice to solve a maze that involved turning either left or right to find a water reward. A visual clue, such as a star, along with the texture of the maze's surface, showed the correct direction to turn. After eight days of practice, mice with the human form of FOXP2 learnt to follow the clues to the water 70% of the time. Normal mice took an additional four days to reach this level. Schreiweis says that the human form of the gene allowed mice to more quickly integrate the visual and tactile clues when learning to solve the maze. In humans, she says, the mutation to FOXP2 might have helped our species learn the complex muscle movements needed to form basic sounds and then combine these sounds into words and sentences. more

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