INSA-Leopoldina Symposium on Human Evolution towards Language

The Indian National Science Academy (INSA) and German National Academy of Sciences, Leopoldina recently joined hands to convene a two-day symposium at IISER Pune on Human Evolution Towards Language: from Genes to Behavior.  Prof. L. S. Shashidhara (Chair, Biology, IISER Pune) was one of the organizers of the symposium.  Speakers from India, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom presented their work.

Prof. Partha Majumdar’s (Director, National Institute of Biomedical Genomics) keynote talk about how the genetic diversity of the Indian population clusters by the four prominent language groups in the country set the tone for the meeting. The presentations of the first day focused on the neuronal mechanisms of sequence learning in animals.

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The second day opened with the German keynote talk by Prof.  Angela Friederici (Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Germany) who spoke about whether language is a uniquely human trait.

This was followed by lectures on genes involved in language learning, specifically FOXP2, a gene known to be associated with speech. In the second half of the day, the role of experience in acquisition of skills was discussed.

The talks were followed by lively discussions on the significance of memory in the process of learning and its neuronal basis.

-Reported by Apurva Barve

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