Data Stories | Molecular roots of language disorders
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Data Stories | Molecular roots of language disorders

My name is Emma Myers. I study gene expression across the brain… to identify patterns that underlie brain function. There is no one I know for whom… the things I spend my life studying aren’t relevant… in some personal way. I’ve been looking at the expression of genes that… are implicated in speech and language functions. And we know of several dozen genes… with variants that… influence speech and language functions. But we don’t know how they do it. Most likely, variants in these genes… alter how the gene is expressed… which then alters a structure in the brain… that’s playing a role in speech and language. I first started working with the Allen Brain atlases… after my first year of graduate school. Almost all the research I’ve done… for the last seven years… would have been impossible… without these data. You can make your own tools… you can write your own code… to ask whatever questions you
are interested in. We curated a list of genes… that have been implicated… in speech and language disorders. Where those genes are expressed… might suggest to us how they’re involved… in speech and language. The expression profiles… of genes involved in stuttering… showed really unusually strong relationships… particularly in the basal ganglia, And the basal ganglia have been implicated… by other lines of evidence in stuttering. So that’s very encouraging. It suggests we’re on the right track… with this kind of approach. Ultimately I hope that… drawing connections between… these different approaches… and different fields of study… will help us better understand the mechanisms of speech and language — how they work and how they go awry — so that we can make more informed… decisions about diagnosis and treatment.

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