Genetic factors, along with environmental factors such as long- and short-term experiences, shape the physiologic foundations for the acquisition of communicative behaviors. Although much research has been conducted on the genetic bases of peripheral hearing loss and craniofacial anomalies that result in speech production deficits, no research has focused on the genetic predispositions associated with success in language learning in adulthood. Such lack of research occurs in the context of a longstanding pattern of findings indicating large individual differences in language recovery, auditory training, and second language learning. The proposed research synergistically builds upon three independent lines of recent (within past 6 months) high- impact research developments, with the aim to produce transformative findings concerning the interactions among language learning, the brain, and genetic differences. These latest developments include: 1) the association between individual differences in language learning and neuroanatomic and neurophysiologic differences (Wong et al., 2007;Wong et al., in press);2) the genetic link to differences in language typology (Dediu &Ladd, 2007);and 3) the association between specific allelic variations and brain functions (Buckholtz et al., 2007;Gurling et al., 2007). Although possessing a significant risk, this research will form a foundation for proteomic studies examining protein expression patterns that are directly consequential to brain development that affects spoken language processing and learning, including rehabilitative/habilitative audiologic, and neurogenic language treatment paradigms. This research is not only particularly timely, but is also consistent with all priority areas stated in the latest NIDCD strategic plan (FY2006-2008). It will bring together investigators from two ends of the communication sciences discipline (molecular biology and cognitive neuroscience) for a lifelong collaboration on high-impact research of broad significance to clinical diagnosis and treatment.
The specific aims are 1) to examine whether spoken language differences and the accompanying neural differences are associated with specific allelic variations;and 2) to examine whether such allelic variations are specific to one type or multiple types of spoken language learning.

Public Health Relevance

Genetic and environmental factors affect our brain and its function including language communication. In an increasingly multi-lingual/multi-cultural world, many people, including adults, are interested in learning a foreign language even though it is difficult for them to do so. Our proposed research seeks to understand why some people can learn spoken language more successfully than others by examining genetic differences across learners.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
Exploratory/Developmental Grants (R21)
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Language and Communication Study Section (LCOM)
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Shekim, Lana O
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Northwestern University at Chicago
Other Health Professions
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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Wong, Patrick C M; Ettlinger, Marc; Zheng, Jing (2013) Linguistic grammar learning and DRD2-TAQ-IA polymorphism. PLoS One 8:e64983
Wong, Patrick C M; Morgan-Short, Kara; Ettlinger, Marc et al. (2012) Linking neurogenetics and individual differences in language learning: the dopamine hypothesis. Cortex 48:1091-102
Sheppard, John Patrick; Wang, Ji-Ping; Wong, Patrick C M (2012) Large-scale cortical network properties predict future sound-to-word learning success. J Cogn Neurosci 24:1087-103
Wong, Patrick C M; Chandrasekaran, Bharath; Zheng, Jing (2012) The derived allele of ASPM is associated with lexical tone perception. PLoS One 7:e34243
Wong, Patrick C M; Ciocca, Valter; Chan, Alice H D et al. (2012) Effects of culture on musical pitch perception. PLoS One 7:e33424
Perrachione, Tyler K; Lee, Jiyeon; Ha, Louisa Y Y et al. (2011) Learning a novel phonological contrast depends on interactions between individual differences and training paradigm design. J Acoust Soc Am 130:461-72
Wong, Patrick C M; Chan, Alice H D; Roy, Anil et al. (2011) The bimusical brain is not two monomusical brains in one: evidence from musical affective processing. J Cogn Neurosci 23:4082-93
Chandrasekaran, Bharath; Chan, Alice H D; Wong, Patrick C M (2011) Neural processing of what and who information in speech. J Cogn Neurosci 23:2690-700
Wong, Francis C K; Chandrasekaran, Bharath; Garibaldi, Kyla et al. (2011) White matter anisotropy in the ventral language pathway predicts sound-to-word learning success. J Neurosci 31:8780-5
Wong, Patrick C M; Ettlinger, Marc (2011) Predictors of spoken language learning. J Commun Disord 44:564-7

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