Page URL:

Gene link to speech and language

8 October 2001
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 128

Scientists from the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics in Oxford and the Institute of Child Health in London have identified a gene linked to the disruption of speech and language development. The genetic link may show why some people suffer from particular language impairments. Professor Anthony Monaco from the Wellcome Trust Centre said that the discovery is 'the first evidence of a particular gene that has been pinpointed as having a mutation leading to a language disorder'.

The team of scientists studied three generations of a British family affected by a language impediment in which there are difficulties identifying basic speech sounds, understanding grammar and articulating speech. Previous studies of the family had indicated a region on chromosome seven where there might be a defect. Then a similar impairment was found in an unrelated boy, who had a visibly odd version of chromosome seven. This allowed the search for the mutated gene to be narrowed down.

The scientists found that an error in the DNA sequence of a gene called FOXP2, in which a single nucleotide is substituted by another, is the cause of the impairment. The FOXP2 gene is thought to code for a protein that controls additional genes involved in speech and language. When the gene is mutated, both speech and language become disrupted.

The discovery might also eventually help us understand how humans ever began to speak. Scientists have already started to look for the same gene in other primates. It is also thought that knowledge of a genetic cause for one type of language disorder will motivate the search for other types, and for possible genetic causes of cognitive and learning disorders.

First gene of language and speech discovered
The Daily Telegraph |  4 October 2001
Scientists report finding a gene for speech
The New York Times |  4 October 2001
Talk of genetics and vice versa
Nature |  4 October 2001
Whisper it quietly, but the power of language may be all in the genes
The Observer |  7 October 2001
16 November 2009 - by Dr Will Fletcher 
Scientists believe that they have found a gene that helps explain the fact that humans are the only animal that has developed speech. Subtle variations in the human version of the gene, known as FOXP2, appear to underpin the human development of language, according to recent research carried out by scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), US, and published in the journal Nature. When comparing the human and chimp version of FOXP2 the researchers discovered...
1 June 2009 - by Dr Will Fletcher 
Transgenic mice containing a human speech gene could give clues about the evolution of language. A team from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany, replaced the mouse gene FOXP2 with the human equivalent - a gene implicated in speech problems, and thought to be linked...
to add a Comment.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions

Syndicate this story - click here to enquire about using this story.