Saturday, May 30, 2009

Mickey Mouse in the Laboratory

u6E7CnCJlkrV According to my sources at Discover magazine, scientists  have endowed  laboratory mice a human gene which is related to human language development.  The transgenic rodent did not begin a reciting Shakespeare or anything, but  appeared to show changes in vocal patterns and brain shape.

Some researchers speculate that these differences may help explain why humans are the only animal able to communicate with complex languages, and not simple grunts, barks or songs.

So what happened to the lab mice that were given the human version of the gene? In the study, published in the journal Cell, researchers report that the mice still emitted ultrasonic whistles to attract their mothers attention like normal mice, but the whistles of the transgenic mice had a lower pitch. They demonstrated other behavioral changes, including less willingness to explore their surroundings. But most interestingly, the altered mice had altered brain structures. In a region of the brain called the basal ganglia, known in people to be involved in language, the humanized mice grew nerve cells that had a more complex structure [The New York Times].

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