Fascinating new finding that a slight change in the FOXP2 gene may explain why we have the tools to speak, and our primate relatives do not:
Two tiny changes in the sequence of one gene could have helped install the mechanisms of speech and language in humans.
In 2001, a gene called FOXP2 was found to underlie a rare inherited speech and language disorder1. It encodes a transcription factor called FOXP2, a protein ‘dimmer-switch’ that binds to DNA and helps to determine to what extent other genes are expressed as proteins.
Experiments have now revealed that the human version of FOXP2, which has two different amino acids compared with the version carried by chimps, has differing effects on genes in the brains of the two species. These differences could affect how the brain develops, and so explain why only humans are capable of language.