Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Language protein differs in males, females

Date:
February 19, 2013
Source:
Society for Neuroscience
Summary:
Male rat pups have more of a specific brain protein associated with language development than females, according to a new study. The study also found sex differences in the brain protein in a small group of children. The findings may shed light on sex differences in communication in animals and language acquisition in people.

Male rat pups have more of a specific brain protein associated with language development than females, according to a study published February 20 in The Journal of Neuroscience. The study also found sex differences in the brain protein in a small group of children. The findings may shed light on sex differences in communication in animals and language acquisition in people.

Sex differences in early language acquisition and development in children are well documented -- on average, girls tend to speak earlier and with greater complexity than boys of the same age. However, scientists continue to debate the origin and significance of such differences. Previous studies showed the Foxp2 protein plays an important role in speech and language development in humans and vocal communication in birds and other mammals.

In the current study, J. Michael Bowers, PhD, Margaret McCarthy, PhD, and colleagues at the University of Maryland School of Medicine examined whether sex differences in the expression of the Foxp2 protein in the developing brain might underlie communication differences between the sexes.

The researchers analyzed the levels of Foxp2 protein in the brains of four-day-old female and male rats and compared the ultrasonic distress calls made by the animals when separated from their mothers and siblings. Compared with females, males had more of the protein in brain areas associated with cognition, emotion, and vocalization. They also made more noise than females -- producing nearly double the total vocalizations over the five-minute separation period -- and were preferentially retrieved and returned to the nest first by the mother.

When the researchers reduced levels of the Foxp2 protein in the male pups and increased it in female pups, they reversed the sex difference in the distress calls, causing males to sound like females and the females like males. This change led the mother to reverse her behavior as well, preferentially retrieving the females over the males.

"This study is one of the first to report a sex difference in the expression of a language-associated protein in humans or animals," McCarthy said. "The findings raise the possibility that sex differences in brain and behavior are more pervasive and established earlier than previously appreciated."

The researchers extended their findings to humans in a preliminary study of Foxp2 protein in a small group of children. Unlike the rats, in which Foxp2 protein was elevated in males, they found that in humans, the girls had more of the Foxp2 protein in the cortex -- a brain region associated with language -- than age-matched boys.

"At first glance, one might conclude that the findings in rats don't generalize to humans, but the higher levels of Foxp2 expression are found in the more communicative sex in each species," noted Cheryl Sisk, who studies sex differences at Michigan State University and was not involved with the study.

This research was funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and the National Institute of Mental Health.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Society for Neuroscience. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. j. Michael Bowers, Miguel Perez-Pouchoulen, N. Shalon Edwards, and Margaret M. Mccarthy. Foxp2 Mediates Sex Differences in Ultrasonic Vocalization by Rat Pups and Directs Order of Maternal Retrieval. The Journal of Neuroscience, February 20, 2013; Vol. 33, Issue 8:pages 3276 %u20133283 DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0425-12.2013

Cite This Page:

Society for Neuroscience. "Language protein differs in males, females." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 February 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130219172153.htm>.
Society for Neuroscience. (2013, February 19). Language protein differs in males, females. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130219172153.htm
Society for Neuroscience. "Language protein differs in males, females." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130219172153.htm (accessed August 20, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Do More Wedding Guests Make A Happier Marriage?

Do More Wedding Guests Make A Happier Marriage?

Newsy (Aug. 20, 2014) A new study found couples who had at least 150 guests at their weddings were more likely to report being happy in their marriages. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Charter Schools Alter Post-Katrina Landscape

Charter Schools Alter Post-Katrina Landscape

AP (Aug. 20, 2014) Nine years after Hurricane Katrina, charter schools are the new reality of public education in New Orleans. The state of Louisiana took over most of the city's public schools after the killer storm in 2005. (Aug. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

AP (Aug. 19, 2014) Four Texas high school football programs are trying out an experimental system designed to diagnose concussions on the field. The technology is in response to growing concern over head trauma in America's most watched sport. (Aug. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Kids' Drawings At Age 4 Linked To Intelligence At Age 14

Kids' Drawings At Age 4 Linked To Intelligence At Age 14

Newsy (Aug. 19, 2014) A study by King's College London says there's a link between how well kids draw at age 4 and how intelligent they are later in life. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins