"...trained mice to find chocolate in a maze. The animals had two options: use landmarks like lab equipment and furniture visible from the maze ("at the T-intersection, turn toward the chair") or by the feel of the floor ("smooth turn right, nubby turn left"). Mice with the human gene learned the route as well by seven days as regular mice did by 11….Surprsingly, however, when the scientists removed all the landmarks in the room, so mice could only learn by the feel-of-the-floor rule, the regular rodents did as well as the humanized ones. They also did just as well when the landmarks were present but the floor textiles were removed. It was only when mice culduse both learning techniques that those with the human brain gene excelled."This is the basis for the speculation that Foxp2 helps with language, for Graybiel interprets the results to "suggest" that Foxp2 enhances the capacity to transition "from thinking about something consciously to doing it unconsciously." And this relates to language how? Well when kids learn to speak they transition from consciously mimicking words they hear to speaking automatically. Really? This is the linking hypothesis? Am I alone in thinking that this gives speculation a bad name? It doesn't even rise to the level of a just-so story.
Jerry Fodor is reputed to have said that neuroscience has taught us virtually nothing about the mind. I am not sure that I entirely agree, but I am pretty sure that this work tells us next to nothing about language. Look, I love mice. They sing, they are cute, they run mazes better than I can, they navigate well in the dark. I am even sort of interested that one can put a human Foxp2 gene into a mouse. But the results of this experiment are very modest and have nothing whatsoever to tell us about language. I assume the language link is just there to hype the work. Show business.