According to a new study in the Journal of Neuroscience, a language-related gene known as FOXP2 — which is essential for speech in humans and for communication in mice — is more active in young girls than it is in young boys.The paper was published Feb. 20. It suggests that there is a biological pathway underlying the observation that girls develop speech sooner than boys.
Measuring the amount of FOXP2 protein in the brain language areas of 4- and 5-year-old children who had recently died in accidents, the team found 30 per cent more FOXP2 in girls than boys.
Interestingly, they found the exact opposite in the mice they studied — higher FOXP2 levels in boys. Language is a complicated phenomenon which most likely encompasses more than one gene, the authors warn, but this is the first sex difference they’ve seen in gene expression.
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