FOXP2 and the Social Brain

TEDx is a series of local conferences affiliated to the TED conferences. TED stands for Technology, Design and Education. Frequent TEDx conferences produce regular videos which are uploaded onto the TEDx YouTube Channel. This Channel is a workhorse for the production of engaging videos in many disciplines from leaders in their field. The videos enable the audience to get to grips with complex subjects and there are many benefits in keeping an eye on this channel.

Professor Stephanie White talks about the social brain in this talk and specifically focuses on the FOXP2 gene. White refers to a London family with a mutation in the FOXP2 who have difficulties in controlling the lower muscles of the face as well producing words beginning with a certain letter. As there are so many factors that influence speech, Professor White has investigated FOXP2 in song birds. She found that the levels of FOXP2 gene expression in a specific area within the brain of song birds reduced when they were practicing songs. She hypothesised that expression of the FOXP2 gene is dependent on the social context and that in turn this may have an impact on certain mental illnesses. This is an important hypothesis which would benefit from further exploration.

Learning Point: Dementia can be delayed in some studies by up to 5 years in people who can speak two languages compared to one.

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