New Years Eve in DC Discoveries: FOXP2 Genetics

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Basically, humans are not the only New Years Eve in DC species with a FOXP2 gene.  The human version of the gene just has a different DNA sequence than that of a chimpanzee or a mouse.  Specifically, the difference is an addition of two new amino acids.  It is fascinating that simply two molecules create the difference between a bark, a squeak, and a complete sentence. 

So, what would happen if these humanized amino acids were genetically laced into something else?  A new year washington d.c. German scientist named Wolfgang Enard asked this question with 300 genetically altered mice, and his answer has shocked the masses and opened new doors in the search to understand human evolution.

Despite criticism  from an ethical point of view, Enard's New Years Eve in DC study revealed what makes human genes so advanced and special.  By tweaking the FOXP2 gene in mice to produce the same amino acids found in people, he was able to observe a sped up duplication of human evolution, particularly with brain development.  His research team was surprised that a humanized gene could even function in a different animal.  They were even more amazed at the obvious changes in behavior. 

Mice with the humanized FOXP2 gene communicated using different tones and pitches.  They developed a sense of exploration, an improved long-term memory, and capacity to pick up new year's eve washington d.c. motor skills such as learning and producing more complex patterns of movement.  This was more than enough speculation to toss aside the gene's previous title of "language gene".  In fact, it proved that FOXP2 was not language specific at all, but rather for general sensory-motor coordination instead. 

Simply put, the gene enlarged specific parts of neurons in the brain.  It strengthened connections between them, a process called "synaptic plasticity", which basically meant that learning abilities went up and dopamine levels went down.  For humans, the FOXP2 gene is essentially a New Years Eve in DC switch that makes the brain process the sounds of language, understand the meaning of words, and allows complex communication to feel effortless.

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New Years Eve in DC Discoveries: FOXP2 Genetics

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This article was published on 2011/08/19
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