Grant: $23,931 - National Institutes of Health - Jul. 13, 2009
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Award Description: The long-term objectives of the proposed studies are to understand the role that early environment plays in the development of asymmetries in manual gestures and facial expressions and their relationship to different structures of the brain. In the proposed research, behavioral studies on functional asymmetries in hand use for gestural communication and facial expressions used with referential vocalizations will be correlated with neuroanatomical asymmetries as assessed by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Specifically, whether hand use for gestures represents a unique functional asymmetry or whether it reflects a general asymmetry for all motor functions will be assessed by comparing handedness indices for gestures compared to motor tasks with similar situational demands. In another series of experiments, the influence of vocal communication on the expression of hand use for referential gestures will be assessed to determine whether the vocal signals enhance or inhibit the magnitude of asymmetries in communicative behavior. In a third set of experiments, asymmetries in facial expressions that made by bonobos that have a referential function will be compared to asymmetries in facial expressions that are not accompanied by the use of a referential vocalization. Finally, laterality in gestural communication and facial expressions will be correlated with asymmetries in the brain from specific regions of interest including the planum temporale, motor/hand area of the precentral gyrus, cingulate gyrus and basal ganglia. In addition, asymmetries in cortical connectivity using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) will be assessed and compared between hemispheres. Of specific interest in all analyses will be the comparison of ape subjects that have been reared by humans and exposed to human language compared to those reared by conspecifics. This comparison will allow for determination of how human environments and communication systems may alter the development of communicative behavior and the cerebral organization of bonobos and chimpanzees. Overall, the proposed research will lead a better understanding of factors which influence the development of the central nervous system and its behavioral and communicative correlates.
Project Description: The first priority outlined in the grant proposal was to sequence exons of the FOXP2 gene that are most likely to contain polymorphisms, namely exon 7, where two missense mutations differentiate the human and chimpanzee FOXP2 gene reference sequences, exons 5 and 6, which contain CAG and CAA repeats that are known to have elevated mutation rates, and exon 14, which contains a G to A transition responsible in humans for an inherited deficiency in speech and language. To date, we have been working with DNA samples obtained from 44 chimpanzees. PCR primers were designed for each target exon and PCR reaction conditions optimized. Due to the small amount of DNA available for each chimpanzee, considerable time was spent optimizing yields for sequencing while minimizing the possible introduction of mutations during PCR. We have completed this phase of the project for each of the exons and have started to generate DNA sequences for all of the exons. To date, we have sequenced 7 in 19 animals, and have found no mutations in the coding region. However, 6 of the chimpanzees have a base change in the intron between exon 7 and 8. The relevance of the single nucleotide variation is currently unknown. PCR products for exon 7 from the remaining 15 chimpanzees were send off for sequencing last week and should be available within the next few days. We have also sequenced exon 6 from 5 animals and exon 5 and 14 from one animal and have observed no variation in the encoding region or adjacent introns. We are continuing to generate PCR samples for sequencing and anticipate completing sequencing of exons 5, 6, 7, and 14 for all of the samples within the next few weeks.
Jobs Summary: Part time summer research positions for 1 faculty researcher and 1 undergraduate student researcher. Job 1 - student research assitant for the summer and Fall semester. Student received molecular biology and genotyping research experience. Job 2 - Summer salary support for a faculty member working at a non-research intensive university. (Total jobs reported: 0)
Project Status: More than 50% Completed
This award's data was last updated on Jul. 13, 2009. Help expand these official descriptions using the wiki below.