“It would have been truly spectacular if they had wound up with a talking mouse.”

A Human Language Gene Changes the Sound of Mouse Squeaks – NYTimes.com

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, have now genetically engineered a strain of mice whose FOXP2 gene (identified in 1998 as the human gene for language) has been swapped out for the human version. Svante Paabo, in whose laboratory the mouse was engineered, promised several years ago that when the project was completed, “We will speak to the mouse.” He did not promise that the mouse would say anything in reply, doubtless because a great many genes must have undergone evolutionary change to endow people with the faculty of language, and the new mouse was gaining only one of them. So it is perhaps surprising that possession of the human version of FOXP2 does in fact change the sounds that mice use to communicate with other mice, as well as other aspects of brain function.

via A Human Language Gene Changes the Sound of Mouse Squeaks – NYTimes.com.

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Filed under Nerd Candy, The Science of Language

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