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UiL-OTS Colloquium


21 May 2015
15:30 - 17:00
Drift 21, Sweelinckzaal

Sonja Vernes

Decoding the genetics of speech, language and vocal communication

Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen

The capacity for language is a fundamental trait of humankind, and is of intense interest across diverse fields including linguistics, anthropology, neuroscience and molecular and evolutionary biology. Language is an innate ability that must be considered in the context of the biological system within which it has evolved and functions. Understanding the biological basis of language will give insight into its fundamental building blocks such as; which features of the brain make language possible, why only humans use language and how humans acquired this ability over evolution. Thus investigating the biology of language, including its underlying genetic mechanisms, has the potential to inform some of the central questions in the language sciences.

I will discuss advances made using different approaches to studying language genetics. From investigations of patients with language disorders, to animal models and cellular assays that address fundamental neurobiological and molecular mechanisms. I will show how we can integrate findings across these approaches to understand the function of these genes at a molecular, cellular and whole brain level and ultimately apply these findings to human populations to determine how genetic variants relate to human speech and language phenotypes.