Study Finds Biological Factors May Explain Gender Differences in Language Use and Development

imagesA new study led by researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine has found that women have more of a particular protein in the area of the brain associated with language than men. The protein Foxp2 has been shown to play a key role in the development of speech and language in children and girls tend to speak earlier than boys.

The researchers conducted experiments with young mice. In mice the males tended to have more Foxp2 in the language area of their brains. In the experiment, the mice were separated from their mothers. The males tended to call out stronger and more frequently than the females and the mothers tended to retrieve the mice who called out the most first and return them to the nest. But when the researchers increased the amount of Foxp2 in the brains of the female mice and decreased the amount in the males’ brains, the young female mice became the most vocal and the mothers sought them out first and returned them to the nest.

McCarthy-margaretThe researchers found significantly higher levels of Foxp2 in the left hemisphere cortex of the brains of human four-year old girls than was the case for boys. Margaret M. McCarthy, a professor of pharmacology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and a co-author of the study, stated, “The findings raise the possibility that sex differences in brain and behavior are more pervasive and established earlier than previously appreciated.” The authors concluded that “our results implicate Foxp2 as a component of the neurobiological basis of sex differences in vocal communication in mammals.”

Dr. McCarthy holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Missouri. She holds a Ph.D. from the Institute of Animal Behaviors at Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey. The research was published on the website of The Journal of Neuroscience. The article may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/Study


RSSComments (0)

Leave a Reply