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Neuroscience

Humanized Foxp2 specifically affects cortico-basal ganglia circuits.


PMID 21111790

Abstract

It has been proposed that two amino acid substitutions in the transcription factor FOXP2 have been positively selected during human evolution and influence aspects of speech and language. Recently it was shown that when these substitutions are introduced into the endogenous Foxp2 gene of mice, they increase dendrite length and long-term depression (LTD) in medium spiny neurons of the striatum. Here we investigated if these effects are found in other brain regions. We found that neurons in the cerebral cortex, the thalamus and the striatum have increased dendrite lengths in the humanized mice whereas neurons in the amygdala and the cerebellum do not. In agreement with previous work we found increased LTD in medium spiny neurons, but did not detect alterations of synaptic plasticity in Purkinje cells. We conclude that although Foxp2 is expressed in many brain regions and has multiple roles during mammalian development, the evolutionary changes that occurred in the protein in human ancestors specifically affect brain regions that are connected via cortico-basal ganglia circuits.