Language and motor syntax

ARX: A potential gene involved in language evolution?

In the coming years, our projects around the potential parallels between language and motor syntax (Roy et al., 2013) will strongly focus on a unique population of patients with monogenetic mutations in the ARX gene. After FOXP2, which is so far the only gene that has been linked to the evolution of human language, this project provides an exceptional opportunity to potentially identify another such gene through behavioral and brain structural analysis of the patients.

One of our objectives is the testing of the “basal ganglia hypothesis of human language evolution” (P. Lieberman, 2002). This hypothesis puts special emphasis on the role of these phylogenetically primitive subcortical neural structures in the evolution of language. According to Lieberman the BG act as a “sequencing engine”, which, through syntax-like operations, can reiterate motor pattern generators as well as cognitive pattern generators. This project thus allows advancing the hypothesis of potentially shared computations and dependencies between the motor and the linguistic systems.