FOXP2 Tweak Yields Planet Of The Apes?

FOXP2 is a specific gene that scientists believe explains much of the reason why human beings developed speech but chimps did not. A UCLA-Emory University study shows how human and chimp versions of FOXP2 differ.

"Earlier research suggests that the amino-acid composition of human FOXP2 changed rapidly around the same time that language emerged in modern humans," said Dr. Daniel Geschwind, Gordon and Virginia MacDonald Distinguished Chair in Human Genetics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. "Ours is the first study to examine the effect of these amino-acid substitutions in FOXP2 in human cells.

"We showed that the human and chimp versions of FOXP2 not only look different but function differently too," said Geschwind, who is currently a visiting professor at the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London. "Our findings may shed light on why human brains are born with the circuitry for speech and language and chimp brains are not."

"Genetic changes between the human and chimp species hold the clues for how our brains developed their capacity for language," said first author Genevieve Konopka, a postdoctoral fellow in neurology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. "By pinpointing the genes influenced by FOXP2, we have identified a new set of tools for studying how human speech could be regulated at the molecular level."

Science fiction has explored the question of what would happen if "lower" primates" had the power of speech and language. The most famous of these is probably the film Planet of the Apes. In the film, Charleton Heston learns what it's like to live on a planet on which apes "build the cities, make the laws, and control the guns" (see the original trailer for the Planet of the Apes).

(Planet of the Apes - they make the laws!)

From UCLA; thanks to Winchell Chung.

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