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article imageScientists find gene for human language

By Andrew Moran     Nov 11, 2009 in Science
Scientists have discovered a mutated gene for why humans have language and chimpanzees, our closest relative, do not. Only one gene is involved in the important barrier.
Chimpanzees do not speak but humans certainly do (maybe too much sometimes) and scientists have now discovered a mutated gene that shows why we have language, according to AFP.
However, the gene, FOXP2, is not the only one involved in our ability to communicate linguistically but the specific gene in chimpanzees and humans act and appear much differently.
FOXP2 mutated around the time period when humans begun to be vocal, which is thought to be around 100,000 to 200,000 years ago. Daniel Geschwind, a professor of neurology, psychiatry and human genetics at the University of California, the study's author, said, according to New Scientist, “It's really playing a major role in chimp-human differences. You mutate this gene in humans and you get a speech and language disorder.”
These latest findings may also now create new drugs to treat diseases that hurt speech such as autism and schizophrenia.
But hold on. The Canadian Press reports that some researchers believe that the scientific community shouldn’t be making too much of this finding because it’s too early to weigh the significance of cognitive and language progression.
Marc Hauser, a professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard University, said in an e-mail, “I would be extremely skeptical about drawing inferences.” He further added that it’s important to ask why humans actually received language and not the how part.
More about Scientists, Human language, Chimps
 
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