Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Uppsala University, UCLA and more than 20 other institutions collaborated on the analysis, which appears here in the journal Nature.
“Now we can look deep into the genome, not just at the genes involved in vocal learning, but at the complex ways in which they are regulated,” says senior author Dr. Richard Wilson, The Genome Center’s Director. “There are layers and layers of complexity that we’re just beginning to see. This information provides clues to how vocal learning occurs at the most basic molecular level in birds and in people.”
Because zebra finches learn to sing in a predictable way and many of their genes are conserved in humans, they are an important model for understanding vocal learning in humans. Many of the same genes involved in the bird’s ability to learn songs are also involved in human language learning. The work also sets the stage for future studies that could help identify the genetic and molecular origins of speech disorders, such as those related to autism, stroke, stuttering and Parkinson’s disease.