Wednesday, June 24, 2009

mouse gets transgenic human fox2 language gene

"Scientists of the German Mouse Clinic at Helmholtz Zentrum München have generated and analyzed a mouse model in which parts of the human Foxp2 gene were introduced. Foxp2 is known to be a key gene for language. Since the human and chimpanzee lineages diverged, only minimal genetic alterations have occurred, even with reference to the mouse: The alterations, as scientists surmised, are closely associated with speech and language ability. However, proof on a functional level has been lacking until now."

"Helmholtz scientists analyzed the Foxp2 mice by screening for more than 300 parameters, including the ability to see and hear, bone density, important metabolic functions and a number of neurological functions. The mice carrying the humanized Foxp2 gene showed no physiological abnormalities. However, behavioral tests showed an altered exploratory behavior and reduced movement activity – both results point to altered brain functions"
D: I was just reading about empathy and deception, which develops around age 4 in humans, being linked to language.

So the question is whether an animal that performs these tests at the level of a child would be considered sentient?

Reminds me of a story called "Flowers for Algernon".

"The titular Algernon is a laboratory mouse who has undergone surgery to increase his intelligence by artificial means. The story is told as a series of progress reports written by Charlie, the first human test subject for the surgery, and touches upon many different ethical and moral themes such as the treatment of the mentally disabled.[4]"

D: add a dextrous tongue and lips, and who knows?
Maybe our pet mice will be asking for cheese in the future.

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