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Science Explains Why Women Talk More than Men

Update Date: Feb 22, 2013 04:01 AM EST
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Photo:Flickr/Crycks (Photo : Flickr/Crycks)

A new University of Maryland study has now found that women indeed talk more than men and the reason for this enhanced communication is the presence of a specific protein - Foxp2 - which is associated with language development.

Now, girls are known to begin talking early and with a greater complexity when compared with boys of the same age. However, researchers studying language development couldn't figure out why this happened. Previous studies have suggested that Foxp2 aids speech development in humans.

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A recent study published in PLOS One showed that mutation in the gene that codes for this protein can cause delay in speech development and learning abilities.

The present study took the findings of previous work a bit further, by assessing the role of the protein in language development in males and females.

The first part of the study was conducted on mouse pups. Researchers assessed the level of this protein in the brains of the pups and tested the amount of noise they made when they were separated from their parents. Male mouse pups have higher levels of the protein Foxp2 in the brain and researchers found that these pups made more noises (distress calls) than female pups.

Then, researchers altered the amount of Foxp2 present in the brains of the mice by increasing levels of the protein in females and decreasing it in males. Study results showed that the difference in the level of this protein changed the behavior of the pups; with males making less noise and females making more. The changed behavior of the pups led to mothers changing their behavior as well. When females began making more distress calls, mothers began preferring them over male pups.

"This study is one of the first to report a sex difference in the expression of a language-associated protein in humans or animals. The findings raise the possibility that sex differences in brain and behavior are more pervasive and established earlier than previously appreciated," Margaret McCarthy, Ph.D., from the University of Maryland School of Medicine, said in a news release.

The last part of the study involved a small group of children. Researchers assessed the levels of Foxp2 protein in both boys and girls. And, unlike mice, human females were found to have 30 percent more Foxp2 protein in the brain areas associated with language than males.

"At first glance, one might conclude that the findings in rats don't generalize to humans, but the higher levels of Foxp2 expression are found in the more communicative sex in each species," said Cheryl Sisk, who studies sex differences at Michigan State University. Sisk wasn't part of the current research.

The study is published in The Journal of Neuroscience

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