Gregg Castellucci publishes in Scientific Reports

March 18, 2016

Gregg Castellucci, with colleagues David McCormick and Matthew McGinley in the Department of Neuroscience and the Yale School of Medicine, published work examining the effects of Foxp2 disruption on mouse vocalizations. The paper, titled “Foxp2 knockout disrupts vocal development in mice” was published in Scientific Reports, an open access journal of the Nature Publishing Group. This research is of particular value for linguistics in that it sheds light on the genetic basis common to mouse vocalizations and human language. An abstract appears below.

The FOXP2 gene is important for the development of proper speech motor control in humans. However, the role of the gene in general vocal behavior in other mammals, including mice, is unclear. Here, we track the vocal development of Foxp2 heterozygous knockout (Foxp2+/−) mice and their wildtype (WT) littermates from juvenile to adult ages, and observe severe abnormalities in the courtship song of Foxp2+/− mice. In comparison to their WT littermates, Foxp2+/− mice vocalized less, produced shorter syllable sequences, and possessed an abnormal syllable inventory. In addition, Foxp2+/− song also exhibited irregular rhythmic structure, and its development did not follow the consistent trajectories observed in WT vocalizations. These results demonstrate that the Foxp2 gene is critical for normal vocal behavior in juvenile and adult mice, and that Foxp2 mutant mice may provide a tractable model system for the study of the gene’s role in general vocal motor control.

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