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"Speech" gene may encode a protein helps the brain mesh

Discussion in 'Science & Technology' started by GoodGame, Jul 8, 2011.

  1. GoodGame

    GoodGame Red, White, & Blue, baby!

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    As reported in Science (http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2011/07/language-protein-may-help-build-.html),

    a gene FOX2, long thought to be crucial to the language ability in humans and animals may actually play a role in encouraging developing neurons to connect together.

    Evidence of how it functions in a developing individual shows it at least has a regulatory role in the genome, turning a large number of genes on to affect neuron shape.

    Pretty neat how the geometry of your cells can be so important to your ability to function!


    A nice side video lecture:


    Link to video.
     
  2. Nick Carpathia

    Nick Carpathia Unleash the HAARP

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    That makes sense, we know the brain is a neural network (by definition), and it's the connections that are needed to process information. It's consistent with the observation that children learn languages faster, maybe some aspect of the high number of interconnections of developing brains, there's evidence that overexpressing or silencing Foxp2 expression in birds corresponds to enhanced or decreased learning of audio.

    It's definitely an interesting story, primates develop more connections, causing increased plasticity, enhancing learning. Now all we need to do is work out what inputs to single cells cause what effects on connections, and integrate all the different layers into a consistent model. Haha, we're not even close.

    In addition, I wouldn't be surprised if Foxp2 dips its helical little fingers into a hundred different pies.
     
  3. emzie

    emzie wicked witch of the North

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    Foxp2 is my favourite gene in show casing just how small changes in a genome can have massive impacts. The human version (and Neanderthals too!) is two base pairs different than that of a mouse. It's one base pair different than a chimp.

    I'd be surprised if it didn't have functions all across the body. IIRC, knock-out mice die without a copy.
     
  4. Nick Carpathia

    Nick Carpathia Unleash the HAARP

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    Huh, didn't know that. What could they die of? The paper I found simply describes motor abnormalities, no idea what causes them to just keel over. Mice are pretty fragile, but whatever effect seems pretty systemic.
     
  5. emzie

    emzie wicked witch of the North

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    According to wiki, their lungs don't properly develop and they die within a few weeks of being born.

    It gets back to one of my pet peeves in genetics, describing a gene as "for" something, as if there's only one gene for one thing, or that gene is limited to that one thing.
     
  6. GoodGame

    GoodGame Red, White, & Blue, baby!

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    It's sort of a problem of how the gene is discovered. There's both "forward genetics" and "backward genetics", with the one being about starting from the phenotype and trying to locate that trait to a gene; of course they might not find a discrete gene but a regulatory gene that runs a cascade of effects. Or they might just find one genetic part of a larger quantitative trait (which may/may not involve special regulation).

    But yeah it might be better to say a gene locus is associated with a trait rather than "for" a trait. Except that it is popular to believe that most traits are simple and discrete genetically, since the general population isn't studied on how complicated gene regulation is.

    EDIT: Sorry if I'm preaching to the choir. :)
     
  7. Nick Carpathia

    Nick Carpathia Unleash the HAARP

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    I still love Proktor Zakarov's quote about the relationship between genes and morphology. As wacky as some of some of AC's science is, they at least got that bit better than the rest of the mass media.
     
  8. r_rolo1

    r_rolo1 King of myself

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    Yup, good ol'Provost quote should be stated in the beginning of every gene-related quote in the Media :D ( and of some Biology related courses, to be honest ... :( )
     
  9. MCdread

    MCdread Couldn't she get drowned?

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    To be fair though, and while this doesn't affect your general point, the phenotypic differences could also be, at least partly, due to differences in the sequence of the target gene(s).
     
  10. GoodGame

    GoodGame Red, White, & Blue, baby!

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    This one?


    I find it kind of wacky personally, since obviously genes do effectively code for morphology among other things (e.g. homeobox genes). And they effectively are blueprint, but true that it is a blueprint for big signal cascade of miscellaneous macromolecules.
     
  11. emzie

    emzie wicked witch of the North

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    I figured he meant the fractal quote...

     

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