Neurogenomics of Speech, Language and Reading Disorders
Course infoSchedule
Course moduleNWI-BM061
Credits (ECTS)3
CategoryMA (Master)
Language of instructionEnglish
Offered byRadboud University; Faculty of Science; BioWetenschappen;
prof. dr. S.E. Fisher
Other course modules lecturer
prof. dr. S.E. Fisher
Other course modules lecturer
Contactperson for the course
prof. dr. S.E. Fisher
Other course modules lecturer
prof. dr. S.E. Fisher
Other course modules lecturer
prof. dr. C. Francks
Other course modules lecturer
Academic year2023
KW3  (29/01/2024 to 07/04/2024)
Starting block
Course mode
Registration using OSIRISYes
Course open to students from other facultiesYes
Waiting listNo
Placement procedure-
By the end of this course, the student will:
  • be able to describe key characteristics of major developmental disorders affecting speech, language and reading, including speech apraxia, developmental language disorder and dyslexia
  • appreciate the complexity of the genetic architecture underlying these disorders, ranging from rare point mutations and chromosomal rearrangements, through to common polymorphisms
  • understand the relative strengths and weaknesses of complementary genetic methods of linkage and association, and how they have been used to identify genes implicated in rare and common language-related disorders
  • be familiar with important concepts in the genetic epidemiology of complex traits in the general population, including heritability and genetic correlation
  • have a robust appreciation of the endophenotype approach, in particular the coupling of neuroimaging and genetic data for gaining insights into human language-related traits
  • display solid knowledge of the main techniques that are used to study molecular functions of language-related genes, and relevant mutations, using cell-based systems
  • be able to describe how genetic manipulation in animal models can trace links between language-related genes and the development/function of neural circuits
  • apply the knowledge and understanding from the course to specific examples of genes of interest, such as FOXP2, and place them in a broader evolutionary context
  • be able to critically evaluate the potential impact of new developments, such as next-generation sequencing, for the future of the field.
A small but significant proportion of children have unexplained difficulties acquiring language and/or reading skills, in absence of obvious causes. Convergent advances in genomics and neuroscience are enabling researchers to pinpoint genetic risk factors implicated in speech disorders, developmental language disorder and dyslexia. Students will develop an appreciation of how diverse cutting-edge techniques are brought together to reveal novel insights into the underlying biology of these important disorders, and will thereby understand how we can begin to bridge genes, neurons, brains and cognition. The course is given by internationally leading figures that helped pioneer this exciting new field.
The following topics will be covered:
  • Introduction to the language sciences, with an overview of biological approaches for studying speech, language and reading. Characteristics, diagnostics and prevalence of relevant neurodevelopmental disorders.
  • Rare Mendelian forms of speech, language and reading disorders. Identification of genes including FOXP2, ROBO1, through parametric linkage analysis and analyses of chromosomal rearrangements.
  • Genetics of common multifactorial disorders, including dyslexia and developmental language disorder. Genetic epidemiology and genome-wide association scans for reading- and language-related measures in the general population.
  • Language endophenotypes, with an emphasis on brain imaging genomics. Genetics of functional and structural brain asymmetries, and relationships with neurodevelopmental disorders, including gene expression studies with post-mortem human brain tissue.
  • Functional genomics of mutations implicated in speech and language disorders, using human cell-based models.
  • Using animal models to study neural functions of language-related genes. Bridging molecules, neurons and neural circuits, illustrated by FoxP2 in mice and songbirds.
  • Future perspectives. The impact of next-generation sequencing, molecular anthropology and neuroimaging genetics for studying speech and language.

Instructional Modes
  • Lecture
  • Self-study

Presumed foreknowledge
Bachelor level Medical Biology, Neurobiology, Molecular Life Sciences (or equivalent) is required. Basic understanding of Neuroscience and Behaviour would be beneficial.
Test information
  • Written exam at the end of the course, testing for robust understanding of each of the topics covered.
In-person attendance at the teaching sessions is strongly recommended.
Required materials
A pdf of the relevant PowerPoint from each lecture will be provided
Key scientific articles, review papers and chapters will be made available as pdfs on Brightspace before each lecture

Recommended materials
To be announced
A full list of suggested reading will be provided at the start of the course.

Instructional modes
Attendance MandatoryYes

Test weight1
Test typeExam
OpportunitiesBlock KW3, Block KW4