Navigation Links
Fruit flies help scientists uncover genes responsible for human communication
Date:6/26/2014

COLUMBIA, Mo. The evolution of language in humans continues to perplex scientists and linguists who study how humans learn to communicate. Considered by some as "operant learning," this multi-tiered trait involves many genes and modification of an individual's behavior by trial and error. Toddlers acquire communication skills by babbling until what they utter is rewarded; however, the genes involved in learning language skills are far from completely understood. Now, using a gene identified in fruit flies by a University of Missouri researcher, scientists involved in a global consortium have discovered a crucial component of the origin of language in humans.

"One effective way of uncovering the root of language development is to study language impairment disorders that are genetically-based," said Troy Zars, associate professor of biological sciences in the College of Arts and Science at MU. "By isolating the genes involved, we can uncover the biological basis of human language. In 2007, our team discovered that a gene in the fruit fly genome was very similar to the human version of the Forkhead Box P (FoxP) gene and in our latest study, we have determined it is a major player in behavior-based, or operant, learning."

In 2010, Zars presented his findings at the Dahlem Colloquium Seminar Series supported by the Freie Universitt and the Max Plank Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin. There, he met with Bjoern Brembs, professor of neurogenetics at the University of Regensburg; Constance Scharff, professor of biology at the Freie Universitt Berlin; and Juergen Rybak, group leader of evolutionary neuroethology at the Max Plank Institute for Chemical Ecology. They formed a consortium together with Ezekiel Mendoza, Julien Colomb, and Hans-Joachim Pflueger to examine operant learning in fruit flies.

The researchers studied flies in which the FoxP gene had been modified. In a learning experiment that comes as close to simulating human language learning as possible, flies had to try different movements with their flight muscles in a custom-built flight simulator to learn where to fly and where not to fly. The flies were trained to avoid flying in one direction, forcing them to try different steering maneuvers.

The team found that flies with a compromised FoxP gene failed in the task, while flies with the uncompromised gene did well and learned their movements. This learning deficit is conceptually similar to human patients with FoxP mutations, where communication is altered. Subsequent tests revealed a change in the structural makeup of the flies' brains indicating that operant learning depends on the function of this gene to develop normally.

These discoveries suggest that one of the roots of language can be placed 500 million years ago to an ancestor who had evolved the ability to learn by trial and error, the team said.

"Identification of this characteristic in flies provides a starting point in understanding the genes involved in trial-and-error-based learning and communication across species," Zars said. "These findings should help in understanding how genetic bases of communication deficits arise in humans."

The study, "Drosophila FoxP mutants are deficient in operant self-learning," was published in PLOS One.


'/>"/>

Contact: Jesslyn Chew
ChewJ@missouri.edu
573-882-8353
University of Missouri-Columbia
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Fruit fly research to provide new insight into our body clock and its biological impact
2. Nine young scientists awarded by the Genetics Society of America for fruit fly research
3. Shorter lives for male fruit flies forced to compete
4. Lots of fruits and vegetables, but lots of high-fat snacks
5. Researchers show fruit flies have latent bioluminescence
6. Research from CHORI scientists demonstrates first genome methylation in fruit fly
7. Stink bug traps may increase damage to tomato fruits
8. What singing fruit flies can tell us about quick decisions
9. Study of complete RNA collection of fruit fly uncovers unprecedented complexity
10. Fruit flies help uncover tumor-preventing protein complex
11. USDA school meal standards positively impact low-income students fruit and vegetable consumption
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:12/16/2016)... , Dec. 16, 2016 The global wearable medical ... 12.14 billion by 2021 from USD 5.31 billion in 2016, at ... ... mainly driven by technological advancements in medical devices, launch of a ... preference for wireless connectivity among healthcare providers, and increasing focus on ...
(Date:12/15/2016)... Mich. , Dec. 15, 2016  There is ... car doors or starting the engine. Continental will demonstrate ... Las Vegas . Through the combination ... Start and Entry) and biometric elements, the international technology ... of vehicle personalization and authentication. "The integration ...
(Date:12/7/2016)... PUNE, India , December 7, 2016 According to ... NLP, Machine Learning), Software Tool (Facial Expression, Voice Recognition), Service, Application Area, End ... size is estimated to grow from USD 6.72 Billion in 2016 to USD ... Continue Reading ... ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:1/18/2017)... ... 18, 2017 , ... Researchers from a new study are stating that if levels ... prostate cancer treatment, this indicates there is still remaining prostate cancer cells that are more ... PSA test has always been an indicator of whether a man’s prostate cancer is ...
(Date:1/18/2017)... ... January 18, 2017 , ... ... 2017, to sell research and genetic testing lab equipment from two different leading institutes. ... Northwest and Northeast regions of the United States. This 1-day online auction will ...
(Date:1/18/2017)... ... January 18, 2017 , ... Thirty-six startup companies in University City ... Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development in 2016 as part of the Keystone ... University City Keystone Innovation Zone and represent the highest number of awards to the ...
(Date:1/18/2017)... , Jan. 18, 2017  HUYA Bioscience International, (HUYA), ... China,s pharmaceutical innovations, announced today a ... Innovation and Investment Company (referred to as CAS Innovation). ... innovations discovered by leading scientists at CAS to meet ... HUYA is the first company to have recognized ...
Breaking Biology Technology: