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Speak Easy: FOXP2 'Language Gene' Has a Partner

Speak Easy: FOXP2 'Language Gene' Has a Partner | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it

Few genes have made the headlines as much as FOXP2. The first gene associated with language disorders, it was later implicated in the evolution of human speech. Girls make more of the FOXP2 protein, which may help explain their precociousness in learning to talk. Now, neuroscientists have figured out how one of its molecular partners helps Foxp2 exert its effects.

 

The findings may eventually lead to new therapies for inherited speech disorders, says Richard Huganir, the neurobiologist at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, who led the work. Foxp2 controls the activity of a gene called Srpx2, he notes, which helps some of the brain's nerve cells beef up their connections to other nerve cells. By establishing what SRPX2 does, researchers can look for defective copies of it in people suffering from problems talking or learning to talk.

 

Until 2001, scientists were not sure how genes influenced language. Then Simon Fisher, a neurogeneticist now at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, and his colleagues fingered FOXP2 as the culprit in a family with several members who had trouble with pronunciation, putting words together, and understanding speech. These people cannot move their tongue and lips precisely enough to talk clearly, so even family members often can’t figure out what they are saying. It “opened a molecular window on the neural basis of speech and language,” Fisher says.

 

A few years later, other researchers showed that the FOXP2 gene in humans differed from the chimp version by only two bases, the "letters" that make up DNA. That small difference may have affected Foxp2 performance such that animal calls could eventually transform into the human gift of gab. In 2009, a team put the human version of the gene in mice and observed that the rodents produced more frequent and complex alarm calls, suggesting these mutations may have been involved in the evolution of more complex speech. But how Foxp2 works has largely remained a mystery.

 

Huganir didn't start out trying to solve this mystery. He was testing 400 proteins to see if they helped or hindered the development of specialized junctions between nerve cells, called synapses, which allow nerve cells to communicate with one another. A single neuron can have up to 10,000 synapses, or connections to other neurons, Huganir says. Of the 10 proteins he identified, one that strongly promoted synapse formation was Srpx2, a gene other researchers had linked to epilepsy and language problems.

 

Huganir and his colleagues examined Srpx2 activity in isolated nerve cells, determining that it stimulated the formation of "excitatory" connections, ones where a "turn on" message was conveyed to the receiving nerve cell. Srpx2 also enhanced the number of excitatory connections in the part of the brain in developing mice that is the equivalent of the human language center, the researchers report online today in Science. Because Foxp2 regulates the activity of several genes, including Srpx2, Huganir and his team took a closer look at howFoxp2 affected this gene. When Foxp2 is around, Srpx2 makes fewer excitatory synapses, they report. It may be that the right balance of excitatory synapses and other connections may be necessary for complex vocalizations, Huganir suggests.

 

As a final test, the researchers looked to see how changing the activity of the Srpx2 gene affected alarm calls of baby mice. Mice pups separated from their moms call for help with squeals too high-pitched for humans to hear. When the researchers artificially inhibited Srpx2's activity, the mice squealed less. But the pups squealed normally again when gene activity was restored, Huganir and his colleagues report.

 

The work "shows that Foxp2 affects synapse formation through Srpx2," says Svante Pääbo, a paleogeneticist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, who has studied Foxp2 in primates and in mice. "It is the first target gene of Foxp2 that has a clear function with respect to neuronal function."


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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Astrocytic mechanism that repairs brain after stroke discovered.

Astrocytic mechanism that repairs brain after stroke discovered. | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
A previously unknown mechanism through which the brain produces new nerve cells after a stroke has been discovered at Lund University and Karolinska Institutet in Sweden. The findings have been pub...

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Like Valium and Oxycontin, without the Side Effects [Video]

Like Valium and Oxycontin, without the Side Effects [Video] | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
Whether it be mental calm or analgesia, neuroscientists have discovered a range of possible health benefits from meditation
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The Neuroscience of Love & Loneliness - YouTube

Neuropschology power couple John and Stephanie Cacioppo explore the spectrum of emotion from companionship to social isolation by peering into the human brai...

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Our brains are maladapted to the modern world we live in - Johns Hopkins News-Letter

Our brains are maladapted to the modern world we live in Johns Hopkins News-Letter Civilization allows many of us to flood our brains' pleasure centers with dopamine and other chemicals many times a day through supernormal stimuli like junk food,...
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Can Brain Imaging Detect Risk Takers? - Brain Blogger (blog)

Can Brain Imaging Detect Risk Takers? - Brain Blogger (blog) | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it


The study, which was conducted by Dr.

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Mental illness: social factors versus genetics - gulfnews.com

Mental illness: social factors versus genetics - gulfnews.com | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
Second International Psychology Conference in Dubai highlights how traumatic circumstances are increasingly overshadowing natural risks in patients
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New breakthrough in Parkinson’s research

New breakthrough in Parkinson’s research | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
Sheffield University researchers have found vital new evidence on how to target and reverse the effects caused by one of the most common genetic causes of Parkinson’s Disease.

Via TEAM Mike Lopez Memorial Foundation |Find us on Twitter:@TEAMCUREALS
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Neural correlates of strategic reasoning during competitive games

Although human and animal behaviors are largely shaped by reinforcement and punishment, choices in social settings are also influenced by information about the knowledge and experience of other decision-makers. During competitive games, monkeys increased their payoffs by systematically deviating from a simple heuristic learning algorithm and thereby countering the predictable exploitation by their computer opponent. Neurons in the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (dmPFC) signaled the animal’s recent choice and reward history that reflected the computer’s exploitative strategy. The strength of switching signals in the dmPFC also correlated with the animal’s tendency to deviate from the heuristic learning algorithm. Therefore, the dmPFC might provide control signals for overriding simple heuristic learning algorithms based on the inferred strategies of the opponent.


Neural correlates of strategic reasoning during competitive games
Hyojung Seo, Xinying Cai, Christopher H. Donahue, Daeyeol Lee

Science 17 October 2014:
Vol. 346 no. 6207 pp. 340-343
http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1256254


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Spectral Signatures of Reorganised Brain Networks in Disorders of Consciousness

Spectral Signatures of Reorganised Brain Networks in Disorders of Consciousness | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
Theoretical advances in the science of consciousness have proposed that it is concomitant with balanced cortical integration and differentiation, enabled by efficient networks of information transfer across multiple scales. Here, we apply graph theory to compare key signatures of such networks in high-density electroencephalographic data from 32 patients with chronic disorders of consciousness, against normative data from healthy controls. Based on connectivity within canonical frequency bands, we found that patient networks had reduced local and global efficiency, and fewer hubs in the alpha band. We devised a novel topographical metric, termed modular span, which showed that the alpha network modules in patients were also spatially circumscribed, lacking the structured long-distance interactions commonly observed in the healthy controls. Importantly however, these differences between graph-theoretic metrics were partially reversed in delta and theta band networks, which were also significantly more similar to each other in patients than controls. Going further, we found that metrics of alpha network efficiency also correlated with the degree of behavioural awareness. Intriguingly, some patients in behaviourally unresponsive vegetative states who demonstrated evidence of covert awareness with functional neuroimaging stood out from this trend: they had alpha networks that were remarkably well preserved and similar to those observed in the controls. Taken together, our findings inform current understanding of disorders of consciousness by highlighting the distinctive brain networks that characterise them. In the significant minority of vegetative patients who follow commands in neuroimaging tests, they point to putative network mechanisms that could support cognitive function and consciousness despite profound behavioural impairment.

Via Ashish Umre
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Neuroscience Will Train Your Brain to Better Focus, Stave Off Procrastination

Neuroscience Will Train Your Brain to Better Focus, Stave Off Procrastination | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
Decades of neuroscientific research may be culminating in treatment to help those with short attention spans overcome their lack of focus.
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Functional Cortical Network in Alpha Band Correlates with Social Bargaining

Functional Cortical Network in Alpha Band Correlates with Social Bargaining | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
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Miniature wireless device creates better way of studying chronic pain - Imperial Valley News

Miniature wireless device creates better way of studying chronic pain - Imperial Valley News | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
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Have you heard of sudden unexpected death in epilepsy?

Have you heard of sudden unexpected death in epilepsy? | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
Sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP) is concerning and many—even those with seizure disorders—may not be aware of this condition.
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Head injury causes the immune system to attack the brain

Head injury causes the immune system to attack the brain | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
Scientists have uncovered a surprising way to reduce the brain damage caused by head injuries - stopping the body's immune system from killing brain cells. The study, published in the open access journal Acta Neuropathologica Communications, showed that in experiments on mice, an immune-based treatment ...
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What is a Good Life?

What is a Good Life? | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
A new book explores what we know and don’t yet know about human nature and the role of the environment in shaping our moral character.

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Other People Do Matter: ECPP2014

Other People Do Matter: ECPP2014 | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
The 7th ECPP in Amsterdam from 1st-4th July was a fabulous opportunity to get up-to-date with the latest positive psychology research and practice. I was struck by how often the conference returned to the theme of connection and, in the widest-possible sense, well-being from a community perspective.

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Psychology professor's new study shows the social impact of saying 'thanks'

Psychology professor's new study shows the social impact of saying 'thanks' | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it

Dr. Monica Bartlett has a lot to be thankful for.  Bartlett, an assistant professor of psychology at Gonzaga, recently conducted a study to be published in the journal “Emotion” that contains the first known evidence of the positive effects that expressions of gratitude have on the building and strengthening of social relationships. 

Bartlett and Dr. Lisa Williams from the University of South Wales, Australia, brought 70 GU student participants into a lab under the premise that they would be participating in a “peer editing program,” during which they would serve as mentors for high school students writing college essays. At the end of the study, all of the GU participants received a handwritten note from their mentee. Thirty of these handwritten notes contained the words “Thank you SO much,” while the other 40 did not. 

Results showed that the participants who received the thank you notes not only viewed their mentees as warmer people; they were also more willing to continue their relationship with their mentee.  When given the opportunity, most of the 30 participants were willing to share their phone number or email with their mentee for future social interaction.


Via Alessandro Cerboni
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Researchers at Cambridge develop new EEG brain scan - BBC News

Researchers at Cambridge develop new EEG brain scan - BBC News | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
Researchers at Cambridge University say they have found a new way of searching for signs of awareness in the brains of patients in a persistent vegetative state
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Pathological gambling is associated with altered opioid system in the brain ... - EurekAlert (press release)

All humans have a natural opioid system in the brain. Now new research, presented at the ECNP Congress in Berlin, has found that the opioid system of pathological gamblers responds differently to those of normal healthy volunteers.
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How Sound Waves Help Deliver Medicine to the Brain

How Sound Waves Help Deliver Medicine to the Brain | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
Under most circumstances, the bones and cells protecting our brain are a blessing.
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Oxytocin: Paul Zak to present 2014 Waitt Lecture

Oxytocin: Paul Zak to present 2014 Waitt Lecture | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
Zak's lecture, "The Moral Molecule: Vampire Economics the New Science of Good and Evil," will focus on his discovery that the hormone oxytocin influences trust, empathy and generosity in both men and women.


"Once we showed oxytocin responded to people trusting each other and motivated reciprocity, then we began a sort of longer term study to see how much oxytocin tells us about these positive social behaviors we call moral behaviors," he explained. 


"Oxytocin works to increase our sense of emotional connection or empathy to others. It really enhances our social skills."


Plus oxytocin in autism in Autism.


Via Edwin Rutsch
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Neuroscience: Brains of Norway

Neuroscience: Brains of Norway | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
Nobel prizewinners May-Britt Moser and Edvard Moser have spent a career together near the Arctic Circle exploring how our brains know where we are.
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New front in war on Alzheimer's and other protein-linked brain diseases

New front in war on Alzheimer's and other protein-linked brain diseases | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
A surprise discovery that overturns decades of thinking about how the body fixes proteins that come unraveled greatly expands opportunities for therapies to prevent diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, which have been linked to the...
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Tiny wireless device could help researchers study chronic pain - HealthCanal.com

Tiny wireless device could help researchers study chronic pain - HealthCanal.com | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
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The Neurocritic: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Mid-Cingulate Cortex

The Neurocritic: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Mid-Cingulate Cortex | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Mid-Cingulate Cortex http://t.co/L3uTXPAUj7
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