The Cognomics Project

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Home Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics
Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics

The Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics' mission is to undertake basic research into the psychological, social and biological foundations of language. The goal is to understand how our minds and brains process language, how language interacts with other aspects of mind and how we can learn languages of quite different types. This involves work on a broad front, covering many disciplines and research methods.

Language and Genetics Department

The department on Language & Genetics is the first research department in the world entirely devoted to understanding the relationship between language and genes. Human children have an unparalleled capacity to acquire sophisticated speech and language skills. Despite the huge complexity of the task, most children learn their native languages almost effortlessly, and do not need formal teaching to achieve a rich linguistic repertoire. It has long been suspected that the answers to this enigma lie buried in our genetic makeup. The Language & Genetics department at the MPI takes advantage of cutting edge molecular technologies to discover how the human genome helps to build a language-ready brain. We aim to uncover the DNA variations which ultimately affect different facets of our communicative abilities, not only in children with language-related disorders but also in the general population, and even through to people with exceptional linguistic skills. Crucially our work attempts to bridge the gaps between genes, brains, speech and language, by integrating molecular findings with data from other levels of analysis, including cell biology, experimental psychology and neuroimaging. In addition, we hope to trace the evolutionary history and worldwide diversity of key genes, which may shed new light on language origins.

Team members

Last Updated on Tuesday, 14 October 2014 14:17  

Research Institute