Simon Fisher and his colleagues are aiming to uncover the neural mechanisms of abnormal language development in children with autism by studying the key genetic pathways that can go awry in these disorders. Fisher and his colleagues previously identified FOXP2 as the first example of a gene linked to speech and language deficits. FOXP2 is also present in non-speaking animals, where it is important for brain circuits involved in learning sequences of muscle movements. FOXP2 functions by switching other genes on and off. Using FOXP2 as a molecular entry point, Fisher and colleagues aim to identify other genetic mechanisms contributing to language problems in autism and related disorders. The researchers will use state-of-the-art genomic methods to define the networks of genes downstream of FOXP2 in the brain, and to determine how mutations in FOXP2 disrupt these pathways. They plan to later assess whether the identified genes are associated with specific language impairment or autism in cohorts of affected children.