Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Gender Speech Differences and FOXP2
In a March Blog I reported on research related to FOXP2, sometimes called the language gene, in a variety of species. For example, when researchers studied vocalization by young rat pups that had been separated from their parents they discovered that the male rat pups made twice as many cries as females. No surprise, the male rat pups had twice as much FOXP2 in brain areas involved with vocalization.. Studies conducted by researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (published in The Journal of Neuroscience) have connected this gene with a possible biological explanation of the reason that female humans generally tend to talk more than male humans. Previous studies have shown that women talk about three times as much as men (an average female speaks 20,000 words a day compared to the average male's 7,000). There are other diferences, as well. Women typically speak more quickly, devote more brainpower to speaking, and tend to be better at small talk. Biologically, the female brain contains higher levels of the FOXP2 language protein, essential for human speach. A small study of human children aged four to five years, who had died in accidents within the previous 24 hours, showed that the brains of the girls contained 30% more FOXP2 than the brains of the boys.