Research Topic

Language at the Interface Between the Immune System and the Brain

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The biological underpinnings and the evolution of language are notoriously difficult to study. The available evidence is scarce and indirect, and the phenomenon is so complex and apparently unique, that traditional methods, experiments, models, or even theories often seem at right angles with the project. If ...

The biological underpinnings and the evolution of language are notoriously difficult to study. The available evidence is scarce and indirect, and the phenomenon is so complex and apparently unique, that traditional methods, experiments, models, or even theories often seem at right angles with the project. If there is some hope, it stems mainly from a multidisciplinary approach, with various perspectives being mindful of whatever part of the puzzle they may be considering—as a preliminary exercise to pave the way towards more comprehensive future attempts.

A new twist in the saga has emerged from the consideration of extended mechanisms of evolution, particularly, the concept of hologenome. Recent research has shown that microbes and the immune system influence brain physiology and behaviour. Interestingly, immune dysregulation has been hypothesised to play a role in the onset of psychiatric conditions involving language deficits, like schizophrenia. At the same time, the microbiome is impacted by human adaptation to varying environments and by cultural change. Accordingly, we may expect that not only changes in our genome and epigenome contributed to the emergence of modern language, but also horizontal transfer of genetic material by viral and non-viral vectors, changes in the microbiota and in its effect on brain development, and the modulation of the brain/immune system crosstalk.

This Research Topic is intended to help bridge the gap between language, the microbiota, the immune system, and the brain. Studies of this kind are quite new and they usually focus on broad aspects of brain physiology and cognition. In this Research Topic we wish explore if we can expect a more selective effect on language capabilities and language evolution. Because of the nature of the task, researchers from different fields with an interest in language and cognition are welcome to contribute to this Research Topic, including neuroscientist, psychologists, ethologists, biologists, linguists, zoologists, anthropologists, archaeologists and more.


Keywords: language development, language evolution, HGT, immune system, brain, language disorders, cognition, germ-free animals, cultural evolution, microbiota, domestication, human evolution


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