Singing Mice

With the speculation and rumors around the Oscars at their peak and, indeed, becoming a tad monotonous, we lessor mortals should have foreseen that the American Association for the Advancement of Science would have dedicated a symposium at its Annual Meeting to the subject of stuttering, with three lectures this morning.  The subtitle of the symposium was ‘Untangling the Mystery of Stuttering’ (1)and it is an interesting change from the past in that these newer multidisciplinary approaches are breaking new ground. The Guardian UK gives a detailed account of Dr. Drayna’s presentation (2).

Apparently, there are three genes with particular mutations involved. Mutations in these can result in a deficit of the correct products from the cell metabolism. To test this theory, a set of GM mice have been produced with these three genes inactive. Mr. Mouse bursts into song at the drop of the right pheromone. They sing for minutes and prefer to write their own music. The music is too high pitched for us being just into the ultrasonic but just fine for cats and dogs. If the theory is on target, they will have some very frustrated mice as I don’t expect that the females will come rushing if the singers of the love songs are having difficulty in getting the words out. Drayna’s objective is to design an anti-stutter pill.

The work of du Nil was on a different tack. Using imaging techniques, he has shown that several areas of the brain are involved through differences in activation. This would seem to suggest a fairly complex interaction is at the root cause of a stutter and a pill may be a long way off.

Going up in brain size from mice to rats, a recent neuronal protein study by Dr. Bossert (3) indicated that specific regions of the front part of the brain are involved in drug addiction. Some rat subjects were taught to self medicate with heroin until they were nicely addicted and then they were sent to a rehab unit to clean up. Apart from being a drug-free zone, the quarters became nice and bright and the rats cleaned up their act. However, when back with the sleazy environment, they fell off the wagon. They could get drug help them though by injections of drugs that inhibited the part of the brain wound up by their heroin addiction. I guess you can take the rat out of the street but not the street out of the rat.



One Response so far.

  1. jazgal says:

    Oh the studies we persue!

Leave a Reply