Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Neurogenomics of vocal learning

How does FoxP1 affect auditory perception on a behavioural and genomic level?

2014 - 2018
NWO-Gravity Program ‘Language in Interaction’ NWO-Gravity Program ‘Language in Interaction’

The most sophisticated form of vocal learning is considered to be human speech and language in its unsurpassed complexity. A class of transcription factors, called FoxPs are hypothesised to play a major role in human language as they are mutated in individuals with language impairments.
The function of these genes seems to be conserved related to that in vocal learning species, such as songbirds.

While most research focuses on effects of FoxPs on motor control, I investigate if and how a reduction in FoxP activity interferes with auditory perception.

Studying the strong homologies between vocal learning model species, such as songbirds like the zebra finch and humans might enable us to elucidate how human speech and language evolved but also how an underlying genetic network may influence such a complex behavioural trait.

Material & methods

FoxPs are downregulated locally in the brain via lentiviral vectors.  Subsequently the resulting behavioural phenotypes are analysed for auditory preference and discriminatory abilities.

Transcriptional profiling is applied to reveal the effects of a reduced FoxP expression.

Once candidate genes have been found, they will shed light onto the molecular mechanisms which are required for auditory processing as a main component of vocal learning.

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