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Gene change speaks to language malady

An unprecedented genetic find has emerged from an extended British family in which more than half the members display a severe speech and language disorder. Scientists have now identified a genetic mutation that lies at the root of this family's communication breakdown.

This is the first gene implicated in people's capability to talk and to understand language, according to a team led by geneticist Cecilia S.L. Lai of the University of Oxford in England. She and her colleagues describe their discovery in the Oct. 4 Nature.

"It's exciting that we've found a mutation common to every family member with this disorder," says study coauthor Faraneh Vargha-Khadem, a neuroscientist at the Institute of Child Health in London. "This mutation may impede development of brain areas that mediate speech and language use."

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