View Full Version : Talking mice ? How human variant of speech gene changes a mouse's brain

31-05-09, 11:34
23andMe : New Research on FOXP2 Gene in Mice Reveals Insights to Origins of Language in Humans (http://spittoon.23andme.com/2009/05/29/new-research-on-foxp2-gene-in-mice-reveals-insights-to-origins-of-language-in-humans/)

Mice are geneticists' best friends in the lab. The mouse genome is 75% identical (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/8069235.stm) to the human genome. They breed and mature very quickly, which makes of them very convenient candidates for genetic experiments. Disease causing mutations in mice and humans are usually the same, so that understanding how genes work in mice help a lot understanding our own DNA. Even phenotypical mutations, such as those responsible for eye or hair colour, show strong similarity between humans and our rodent cousins.

The human variant of the FOXP2 gene, thought to be responsible for speech, has been inserted in mice. The results are stunning. Although mice do not have the required vocal chords to speak like us, their brain circuitry and communication patterns were altered significantly.

Whales and dolphins could also possess complex language with a grammatical structure. I wonder how their version of FOXP2 compares with humans and other mammals.

Neanderthals had the same version of FOXP2 as us (which Homo Sapiens may have inherited from Neanderthal at one point or another or vice versa), but chimps do not. Would a genetically modified chimp with a human FOXP2 be able to produce human-like speech ? This will require an experiment.

In any case, the experiment on mice confirms that humans aren't that different from other mammals. If several genes are successfully modified in mice (adapting the vocal chords for speech and increasing a bit brain size in the speech region) we might well have talking mice in the future (although very limited in their vocabulary due to their brain size, so it won't be much more than the present chirps adapted to sound more recognisable/intelligible to human ears). Who knows, if this tendency spreads that could allow us to communicate better with our pets.

18-12-09, 03:32
Yes, Maciamo... this were one of the experiments of the EVA in Leipzig.

There are others.

(The whole picture you could only see, only by connecting the dots)

18-12-09, 03:39
What is needed to do what they did:

(Genetic Engeneering Equipment of the EVA)

Two Genome Sequencers FLX, Roche
Five Genome Analyzer II with Cluster station and Paired End Module, Illumina
ABI 3730 DNA Analyzer, ABI 3130xl Genetic Analyzer
Mx 3005P Real Time PCR System, Stratagene
BioRobot 9600, Qiagen
epMotion 5075 LH workstation, Eppendorf
Genechip Fludics Station 450 and scanner, Affymetrix
Bioanalyzer 2100, Agilent
Typhoon 9410 variable mode imager, Amersham biosciences
HPLC and Oligonucleotide synthesizer
MJ PCR engines
Cell culture facilities
Mouse House

18-12-09, 03:47
Since I have posted only 14-16 Messages I cannot post here hypertext links... otherwise, I would be able to direct you to some videos about

0.) What was intended.
1.) What they did.
2.) Which persons worked in the team.

18-12-09, 03:50
Whales and dolphins could also possess complex language with a grammatical structure. I wonder how their version of FOXP2 compares with humans and other mammals.


I don't know if you have studied or heard of of PPT (Chomsky), Theories of Syntax or Formal Languages/Automata.

This is very interesting and relevant to the subject... specially PPT.


18-12-09, 16:43
This is a british Sci-Fi novel from 1944,

"Sirius" by Olaf Stapledon.
(e-book by Project Gutenberg, Australia)


18-12-09, 16:47

Wolfgang E. speaks about the experiment with FOXP2 in mice...



Family of Genes FOXP, in Chromosome 7.


FOXP Family of Genes.


Bases de Datos sobre el Cromosoma 7.


NCBI : Base de datos sobre genes nombrados.


20-12-09, 03:51
Dog genome sequence announced
December 7, 2005


In work that sheds light on both the genetic similarities between dogs and humans and the genetic differences between dog breeds, an international research team led by scientists at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard announced today the completion of a high-quality genome sequence of the domestic dog.

The research will be published in the Dec. 8 issue of Nature.

Comparing dog and human DNA reveals key secrets about the regulation of the master genes that control embryonic development. Comparing dog breeds reveals the structure of genetic variation within the species. The researchers' catalog of 2.5 million specific genetic differences across several breeds can now be used to unlock the basis of physical and behavioral differences, as well to find the genetic underpinnings of diseases common to domestic dogs and their human companions.

More here: http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2005/dog-genome.html

20-12-09, 03:54

Dog Genome Debuts Online
By Kate Ruder
Posted: July 14, 2004

Scientists funded by the US National Institutes of Health have completed the genome sequence of a boxer named Tasha and deposited it in an online database to be used by researchers around the world.
Although the sequence is available now, it will be several months before the researchers publish an analysis of the dog genome and a side-by-side comparison of the dog and human genomes.
Interest in the dog genome is high because dogs and people get many of the same diseases, including cancer, epilepsy, and heart disease. The genomes of dogs and humans are roughly the same size.


Other sites of biological databases…

Human Genome (of the NIMH)

20-12-09, 03:57
"Mensch-Tier-Mischwesen: Auch eine Frage der Religion "

Großbritannien: Verbot von Mensch-Kuh-Embryo gescheitert

Bereits im Vorfeld der Entscheidung über einen Gesetzentwurf, der die »Produktion« von Mischwesen aus menschlicher DNA und Eizellen von Kühen verbietet, haben Forscher an der Universität Newcastle in England mit behördlicher Erlaubnis Tatsachen geschaffen und solche Hybridembryonen erzeugt (siehe auch Newsletter Gentechnik Nr. 49 vom April 2008), die nach drei Tagen getötet wurden. Mitte Mai hat nun das britische Unterhaus den Antrag auf Verbot zur Erzeugung solcher Mischwesen abgelehnt. Ziel dieser Versuche ist die Herstellung embryonaler Stammzellen. Dabei wird Kuh-Eizellen der Zellkern entnommen und Erbgut aus menschlichen Hautzellen eingepflanzt. Allerdings befindet sich auch außerhalb des Zellkerns ein geringer Anteil an Erbgut, so dass in den entstehenden Mischwesen auch Erbgut der Kuh enthalten ist.

Das britische Parlament hat außerdem die Erzeugung sogenannter Retter-Geschwister befürwortet. Eltern eines unheilbar kranken Kindes dürfen nun durch künstliche Befruchtung mehrere Embryonen erzeugen lassen und denjenigen austragen, der die größte genetische Übereinstimmung mit dem kranken Kind hat. Zellen aus der Nabelschnur oder dem Knochenmark dieses »Retter-Kindes« sollen zur Therapie des kranken Geschwisters eingesetzt werden.

Sowohl dieses Verfahren als auch die Erzeugung von Mensch-Tier-Embryonen ist in Deutschland verboten.

Quelle: http://www.tierrechte.de/p20002500x1060.html

20-12-09, 04:02
This that follows is just entertaiment, a circus... but man can think in the posibility of putting improved "chips" in the head of a dog...


20-12-09, 04:06


Aphasia usually results from lesions to the language-relevant areas of the brain, such as Broca's area, Wernicke's area, and the neural pathways between them. These areas are almost always located in the left hemisphere, and in most people this is where the ability to produce and comprehend language is found. However, in a very small number of people, language ability is found in the right hemisphere. In either case, damage to these language areas can be caused by a stroke, traumatic brain injury, or other brain injury. Aphasia may also develop slowly, as in the case of a brain tumor or progressive neurological disease, e.g., Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease. It may also be caused by a sudden hemorrhagic event within the brain. Certain chronic neurological disorders, such as epilepsy or migraine, can also include transient aphasia as a prodromal or episodic symptom.[citation needed] Aphasia is also listed as a rare side effect of the fentanyl patch, an opioid used to control chronic pain.[1]

Genetic Aphasia: Genes.




A Functional Genetic Link between Distinct Developmental Language Disorders


20-12-09, 04:13
This following article of 2007 (in Spanish) refers to a dog name "Rico" of the EVA (Institute of EVolutionary Anthropology, in Lepzig), with a comprehension vocabulary of 200+ words...

No genetic manipulation is mentioned, and was done (apparently) just by the deparments of "Comparative Evolution / Psychology".



Los perros entienden el lenguaje humano

Agencias - Patti Strand, del Club de Mascotas de Estados Unidos, opina que el informe publicado en la revista Science constituye "buenas noticias para los que hablamos con nuestros perros". "Doy las gracias a los investigadores, que han demostrado que aquellos amos que hablan a sus perros son expertos en comunicación y no un puñado de excéntricos".

El perro, llamado "Rico", puede averiguar en determinadas circunstancias qué objeto quiere su amo incluso si es la primera vez que escucha la palabra relacionada, dicen los investigadores. Es posible que lo descubierto no sorprenda a muchos propietarios de perros, pero seguramente relanzará el debate sobre si el lenguaje humano es único.

"Rico vive con sus amos y sabe por ellos el nombre de más de 200 cosas, la mayoría juguetes de niños y pelotas, que va a buscar correctamente cuando se lo piden", escribieron Julia Fischer y sus colegas del Instituto Max-Planck de Antropología Evolutiva, en Leipzig. Sus amos dicen "Rico, ¿dónde está la banana? o el Big Mac o el Panda, y el perro va a buscarlos y desaparece hasta que encuentra el objeto o el juguete.

Las habilidades de Rico parecen seguir un proceso llamado equivalencia rápida, que se observa cuando los niños aprenden a hablar y a comprender el lenguaje, informaron los científicos. La equivalencia rápida permite a un niño formar hipótesis rápidas y provisionales sobre el significado de una nueva palabra la primera vez que la escuchan o la ven.

"Al parecer, el animal puede vincular la palabra desconocida con el juguete desconocido por exclusión, bien porque sabía que los juguetes conocidos ya tenían nombres o porque no eran juguetes nuevos", dijo Fischer.

Fischer y sus colegas están satisfactoriamente convencidos de que Rico comprende las palabras. "Por ejemplo, puede ser instruido para que los ponga en una caja o se los lleve a una persona determinada", escribieron. "El 'tamaño del vocabulario' de Rico es comparable al de los monos, delfines o loros amaestrados".

Cuando se colocaba un objeto nuevo en una habitación llena de cosas conocidas ya por él, Rico era capaz de ir a buscar el artículo desconocido en siete de de cada ocasiones, dando muestras de que comprendía que la nueva palabra debía referirse al nuevo objeto. Cuatro semanas después, parecía recordar esta nueva palabra casi la mitad de las veces. "Este nivel de control de la información es comparable a la actuación de un niño de tres años", escribieron los investigadores.

"Sin duda, es un perro altamente motivado, pero nuestros resultados apoyan con fuerza la visión de que una aparentemente compleja habilidad lingüística humana descrita previamente sólo en niños puede ser transmitida por bloques cognitivos simples que están presentes también en otras especies". Obviamente, los niños tienen una comprensión más profunda y amplia de las palabras. Pero podría ser que algunos de los mecanismos que subyacen en el lenguaje evolucionaran "antes de que los primeros humanos estuvieran preparados para hablar".

El psicólogo Paul Bloom de la Universidad de Yale, experto en el aprendizaje de las personas del significado de las palabras, dijo que ni siquiera los chimpancés han demostrado tales habilidades de "equivalencia rápida". "Quizá Rico está haciendo precisamente lo que hace un niño, aunque no tan bien", escribió Bloom en un comentario. "Las limitaciones de Rico pueden reflejar diferencias de grado, no de categoría".

Sin embargo, Bloom además indicó que la comprensión del lenguaje por parte de los niños puede incluir conceptos abstractos. "Cuando los niños aprenden una palabra como "media", no la interpretan como "trae la media" o "ve por la media", y no lo asocian solamente con medias", dijo. "¿Puede Rico seguir una orden de no ir a buscar un objeto, como se le puede decir a un niño que no toque algo? Las habilidades de Rico son fascinantes... hasta que no haya respuesta a este tipo de preguntas, es demasiado pronto para renunciar a la opinión de que los bebés aprenden palabras y los perros no"

Temas Noticias perrunas
Publicado por elperrunodigital en 22.9.07

20-12-09, 04:18
The Future of the Human Species: Genetic Engineering, Cybernetics, Artificial Intelligence and Animal Uplifting

Presentation to the Melbourne Unitarian Peace Memorial Church, Sunday August 1st by Lev Lafayette


Animal Uplifting

The final area of concern in this presentation is that of animal uplifting. 'Uplifting' is a term appropriated from science fiction author David Brin referring to the genetic or other enhancement of non-human animals to human-like intelligence. This is certainly not as strange as it may first sound. It has been long recognized by scientists that the cephalopods (squid and octopus) posses extremely high mobility, large brain to body mass ratios, and advanced means of communication.

Some species of dolphin have comparable brains and body masses equivalent to ourselves and in controlled experiements have shown the ability to grasp and communicate complex ideas. Killer whales, also with extremely large brain sizes commonly form cooperative hunting plans and the possibility has been raised that the open warfare between sperm whales and large squid is also intelligence mediated. Less than two months ago, Science reported that studies on a house dog named Rico indicated an extensive vocabulary and ability to figure out by elimination that a sound that he has never heard before must refer to a toy he has never seen before - in other words, recognizing new symbolic values.

In the main however research in animal intelligence has most comprehensively been carried out among simians and in particular chimanzees, the animal most closely related to humans. From the groundbreakiung work of Allen and Beatrix Gardner some have shown impressive development in learning the American sign language such as Washoe, who learned some 200 signs. Nim Chimsky, named in humour after Noam Chomsky, actually confirmed the famous linguists' theory that grammatical structures are learned innately and cannot be taught. But whilst Nim Chimsky never mastered the art of transformational grammar primatologist Roger Fouts who has been researching language ability among chimpanzees for over three decades notes that at least one chimpanzee has never made a grammatical error in expression.

In a very real sense, as Carl Sagan makes explicity clear in his very accessible book "The Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence", none of this should surprise us. The evolution of human intelligence and communication is quite a natural process and
utterly dependent on the environmental circumstances that necessitated particular characteristics for survival and adaptability. The fact that similar forms of intelligence and communication also appear in other animals and that there is some degree of cross-species communication between humans and other animals is also a natural and quite reasonable fact. To be sure, it does raise profound ethical questions about the treatment of certain animals by we as moral individuals and what rights - that is substantive political and legal rights - that they deserve.

If this is problematic enough - and it should be to members of a religion which have an explicit commitment to "respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part" - then consider the issues that arise when one combines the technological developments given previously in this presentation - genetic engineering, selective breeding, robotics and bionics, prosthetics - with the development of cross-species communication. Can we claim in all seriousness that in one hundred years human beings will continue to hold a unique level of intelligence vastly superior than that of any other species on the planet? And if that is not the case, at what point do we adapt our political and economic systems and our democratic values and ethos to apply to other sentient beings?

One thing can be certain; once again the same cultural prejudices and institutional vested interests will apply as suggested in other aspects of this presentation. Many individuals, with metaphysical justifications, will demand the continuiation of prejudiced and ignorant mores, of an innate superiority and mastery of human beings over other beings whereas many institutions will demand the application of property law and ownership rights in a
manner that is entirely comparable with nothing less than slavery.


20-12-09, 04:29
Principles and parameters

Principles and parameters is a framework in generative linguistics. Principles and parameters was largely formulated by the linguists Noam Chomsky and Howard Lasnik. Today, many linguists have adopted this framework, and it is considered the dominant form of mainstream generative linguistics.[1]

The central idea of principles and parameters is that a person's syntactic knowledge can be modelled with two formal mechanisms:

* A finite set of fundamental principles that are common to all languages; e.g., that a sentence must always have a subject, even if it is not overtly pronounced.

* A finite set of parameters that determine syntactic variability amongst languages; e.g., a binary parameter that determines whether or not the subject of a sentence must be overtly pronounced (this example is sometimes referred to as the Pro-drop parameter).

Within this framework, the goal of linguistics is to identify all of the principles and parameters that are universal to human language (called: Universal Grammar). As such, any attempt to explain the syntax of a particular language using a principle or parameter is cross-examined with the evidence available in other languages. This leads to continual refinement of the theoretical machinery of generative linguistics in an attempt to account for as much syntactic variation in human language as possible.

Language acquisition

According to this framework, principles and parameters are part of a genetically innate universal grammar (UG) which all humans possess, barring any genetic disorders. As such, principles and parameters do not need to be learned by exposure to language. Rather, exposure to language merely triggers the parameters to adopt the correct setting.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Principles_and_parameters

20-12-09, 04:36

Broca's area

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The production of language has been linked to the Broca’s area since Paul Pierre Broca reported impairments in two patients. They had lost the ability to speak after injury to the posterior inferior frontal gyrus of the brain.[1] Since then, the approximate region he identified has become known as Broca’s area, and the deficit in language production as Broca’s aphasia. Broca’s area is now typically defined in terms of the pars opercularis and pars triangularis of the inferior frontal gyrus, represented in Brodmann’s cytoarchitectonic map as areas 44 and 45.[1] Studies of chronic aphasia have implicated an essential role of Broca’s area in various speech and language functions. Further, functional MRI studies have also identified activation patterns in Broca’s area associated with various language tasks. However, slow destruction of the Broca's area by brain tumors can leave speech relatively intact suggesting its functions can shift to nearby areas in the brain.[2]


Wernicke's area ("Wernicke" English pronunciation: /ˈvɛrnɪkə/ or /ˈvɛrnɪkiː/; German: [ˈvɛʁniːkə]) is one of the two parts of the cerebral cortex linked since the late nineteenth century to speech (the other is the Broca's area). It is involved in the understanding of written and spoken language. It is traditionally considered to consist of the posterior section of the superior temporal gyrus in the dominant cerebral hemisphere (which is the left hemisphere in about 90% of people).

20-12-09, 04:39



21-12-09, 06:46
Here is the article about "Rico" in English:

Some dog language abilities pre-date human speech

Dog owners convinced of their pets' grasp of human language may be validated, at least in part, by new research on the word-learning abilities of a German family's Border collie. Scientists who studied a dog with an approximately 200-word "vocabulary" suggest that some aspects of speech comprehension evolved earlier than, and independent from, human speech.

"You don't have to be able to talk to understand a lot," said senior Science author Julia Fischer from Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.

Rico, the nearly nine-year-old Border collie, can learn the names of unfamiliar toys after just one exposure to the new word-toy combination. The scientists equate the dog's apparent learning to a process seen in human language acquisition called "fast mapping." The fast mapping abilities of children allow them to form quick and rough hypotheses about the meaning of a new word after a single exposure.

"Such fast, one-trial learning in dogs is remarkable. This ability suggests that the brain structures that support this kind of learning are not unique to humans, and may have formed the evolutionary basis of some of the advanced language abilities of humans," said Katrina Kelner, Science's deputy editor for life sciences.

The German team first verified Rico's 200-word "vocabulary." In a series of controlled experiments, Rico correctly retrieved, by name, a total of 37 out of 40 items randomly chosen from his toy collection. The authors write that Rico's "vocabulary size" is comparable to that of language-trained apes, dolphins, sea lions and parrots.

Next, the researchers tested Rico's ability to learn new words through fast mapping. Fischer's team placed a new toy among seven familiar toys. In a separate room, the owner asked Rico to fetch the new item, using a name the Border collie had never heard before.

Rico correctly retrieved a new item in seven of ten sessions. He apparently appreciates, as young children do, that new words tend to refer to objects that do not already have names. After a month without access to these target toys, Rico retrieved them, upon request, from groups of four familiar and four completely novel toys in three out of six sessions. His retrieval rate is comparable to the performance of three-year-old toddlers, according to the authors.

"For psychologists, dogs may be the new chimpanzees," writes Paul Bloom from Yale University in New Haven, CT, in an accompanying "Perspective" article in Science.

Scientists around the world are currently studying how chimpanzees learn language and communicate.

The authors do not claim that Rico and children have an equally rich understanding of words. They do show, however, that Rico can make the link between objects and sounds.

"This is a crucial step that allows an animal to figure things out in the environment," Fischer explained.

Fischer's team is now investigating Rico's ability to understand entire phrases, such as requests for Rico to put toys in boxes, or to bring them to certain people.

Fischer noted that people should not take this study as a reason to go out and get a Border collie as a novelty.

"Border collies are working dogs," Fischer said. "If they were humans, we'd call them workaholics. They are high-maintenance, professional dogs that need at least four or five hours of attention a day."

Source: http://www.scienceblog.com/cms/node/2958