Anthropology and Human Genetics

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Evolution of human speech and language - the role of FOXP2

We use a mouse model humanized for the transcription factor Foxp2, the only gene so far clearly linked to speech and language development in humans. The human version of Foxp2 leads to specific changes in cortico-basal ganglia circuits, affecting dopamine concentrations, dendrite lengths and synaptic plasticity as well as a faster shift from place-based to response-based learning. Currently, we focus on understanding the molecular and cellular mechanisms driving these changes.


  • Transgenic mouse models
  • High throughput sequencing (RNA-Seq and ChIP-Seq)
  • Mouse behavior
  • Protein interaction assays
  • Electrophysiology (in collaboration)
  • Neuroanatomy

Relevant publications

Hammerschmidt, K., Schreiweis, C., Minge, C., Paabo, S., Fischer, J., and Enard, W. (2015). A humanized version of Foxp2 does not affect ultrasonic vocalization in adult mice. Genes, brain, and behavior 14, 583-590.

Schreiweis, C., Bornschein, U., Burguiere, E., Kerimoglu, C., Schreiter, S., Dannemann, M., Goyal, S., Rea, E., French, C.A., Puliyadi, R., Groszer, M., Fisher, S.E., Mundry, R., Winter, C., Hevers, W., Paabo, S., Enard*, W., and Graybiel*, A.M. (2014). Humanized Foxp2 accelerates learning by enhancing transitions from declarative to procedural performance. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A.

Enard, W. (2014). Mouse models of human evolution. Curr Opin Genet Dev 29C, 75-80.

Enard, W. (2011). FOXP2 and the role of cortico-basal ganglia circuits in speech and language evolution. Current opinion in neurobiology 21, 415-424.

Enard, W., Gehre, S., Hammerschmidt, K., Holter, S.M., Blass, T., Somel, M., Bruckner, M.K., Schreiweis, C., Winter, C., Sohr, R., Becker, L., Wiebe, V., Nickel, B., Giger, T., Muller, U., Groszer, M., Adler, T., Aguilar, A., Bolle, I., Calzada-Wack, J., Dalke, C., Ehrhardt, N., Favor, J., Fuchs, H., Gailus-Durner, V., Hans, W., Holzlwimmer, G., Javaheri, A., Kalaydjiev, S., Kallnik, M., Kling, E., Kunder, S., Mossbrugger, I., Naton, B., Racz, I., Rathkolb, B., Rozman, J., Schrewe, A., Busch, D.H., Graw, J., Ivandic, B., Klingenspor, M., Klopstock, T., Ollert, M., Quintanilla-Martinez, L., Schulz, H., Wolf, E., Wurst, W., Zimmer, A., Fisher, S.E., Morgenstern, R., Arendt, T., de Angelis, M.H., Fischer, J., Schwarz, J., and Paabo, S. (2009). A humanized version of Foxp2 affects cortico-basal ganglia circuits in mice. Cell 137, 961-971.

Enard, W., Przeworski, M., Fisher, S.E., Lai, C.S., Wiebe, V., Kitano, T., Monaco, A.P., and Paabo, S. (2002). Molecular evolution of FOXP2, a gene involved in speech and language. Nature 418, 869-872.