Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour
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Theme 1: Language and Communication

Neurogenetics of Speech and Language

Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and BehaviourHuman children have an unparalleled capacity to acquire sophisticated speech and language skills. Despite the huge complexity of the task, most children learn their native languages almost effortlessly, and do not need formal teaching to achieve a rich linguistic repertoire.

It has long been suspected that the answers to this enigma lie buried in our genetic makeup. The Language & Genetics department at the Max Planck Institute takes advantage of the latest innovations in molecular methods to discover how the human genome helps to build a language-ready brain. We aim to uncover the DNA variations which ultimately affect different facets of our communicative abilities, not only in children with language-related disorders but also in the general population.

Crucially our work attempts to bridge the gaps between genes, brains, speech and language, by integrating molecular findings with data from other levels of analysis, including cell biology, experimental psychology and neuroimaging. In addition, we hope to trace the evolutionary history and worldwide diversity of key genes, which may shed new light on language origins.

Name: Simon E. Fisher
Telephone: 024-3521441
Fax: 024-3521213
Visiting address: Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics
Wundtlaan 1
6525 XD Nijmegen
The Netherlands
Postal address: Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics
P.O. Box 310
6500 AH Nijmegen
The Netherlands
Key publications
Eising, E., Carrion Castillo, A., Vino, A., Strand, E. A., Jakielski, K. J., Scerri, T. S., Hildebrand, M. S., Webster, R., Ma, A., Mazoyer, B., Francks, C., Bahlo, M., Scheffer, I. E., Morgan, A. T., Shriberg, L. D., & Fisher, S. E. (2018). A set of regulatory genes co-expressed in embryonic human brain is implicated in disrupted speech development. Molecular Psychiatry. Advance online publication. doi:10.1038/s41380-018-0020-x.

Tilot, A. K., Kucera, K. S., Vino, A., Asher, J. E., Baron-Cohen, S., & Fisher, S. E. (2018). Rare variants in axonogenesis genes connect three families with sound–color synesthesia. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 115(12), 3168-3173. doi:10.1073/pnas.1715492115.

Deriziotis, P., & Fisher, S. E. (2017). Speech and Language: Translating the Genome. Trends in Genetics, 33(9), 642-656. doi:10.1016/j.tig.2017.07.002.

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Theme 1:
Language and Communication

Research Group
Neurogenetics of Speech and Language

Principal Investigator
Prof. dr. Simon E. Fisher

Group members

MPI Language & Genetics

Senior Investigators
Clyde Francks
Beate St Pourcain

Minerva Fast Track Fellow
Limor Raviv

Scientific (Postdoctoral) Staff
Else Eising
Maggie Wong
Dick Schijven
Barbara Molz
Mubeen Khan
Ellen Verhoef
Lukas Galke
Joery den Hoed
Sourena Soheili-Nezhad
Ingrid Szilagyi
Danielle Houwing

Laboratory Manager
Jasper Bok

Laboratory Technician
Arianna Vino
Jurgen Heijsen

PhD Students
Fenja Schlag
Gökberk Alagöz
Lucía De Hoyos
Jitse Amelink
Giacomo Bignardi (Max Planck School of Cognition)
Lewis (Ching Yat) Cheung
Danielle Admiraal

Research Assistant
Willemijn Claassen
Yuliia Shevchuk

Martina Bernhard