Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Celtic languages


The Neolithic and Bronze Age transitions were profound cultural shifts catalyzed in parts of Europe by migrations, first of early farmers from the Near East and then Bronze Age herders from the Pontic Steppe. However, a decades-long, unresolved controversy is whether population change or cultural adoption occurred at the Atlantic edge, within the British Isles. We address this issue by using the first whole genome data from prehistoric Irish individuals. A Neolithic woman (3343-3020 cal BC) from a megalithic burial (10.3× coverage) possessed a genome of predominantly Near Eastern origin. She had some hunter-gatherer ancestry but belonged to a population of large effective size, suggesting a substantial influx of early farmers to the island. Three Bronze Age individuals from Rathlin Island (2026-1534 cal BC), including one high coverage (10.5×) genome, showed substantial Steppe genetic heritage indicating that the European population upheavals of the third millennium manifested all of the way from southern Siberia to the western ocean. This turnover invites the possibility of accompanying introduction of Indo-European, perhaps early Celtic, language. Irish Bronze Age haplotypic similarity is strongest within modern Irish, Scottish, and Welsh populations, and several important genetic variants that today show maximal or very high frequencies in Ireland appear at this horizon. These include those coding for lactase persistence, blue eye color, Y chromosome R1b haplotypes, and the hemochromatosis C282Y allele; to our knowledge, the first detection of a known Mendelian disease variant in prehistory. These findings together suggest the establishment of central attributes of the Irish genome 4,000 y ago.

Concepts: Gene, United Kingdom, Europe, Ireland, Neolithic, British Isles, Northern Ireland, Celtic languages


We investigated the impact of a short intensive language course on attentional functions. We examined 33 participants of a one-week Scottish Gaelic course and compared them to 34 controls: 16 active controls who participated in courses of comparable duration and intensity but not involving foreign language learning and 18 passive controls who followed their usual routines. Participants completed auditory tests of attentional inhibition and switching. There was no difference between the groups in any measures at the beginning of the course. At the end of the course, a significant improvement in attention switching was observed in the language group (p < .001) but not the control group (p = .127), independent of the age of participants (18-78 years). Half of the language participants (n = 17) were retested nine months after their course. All those who practiced Gaelic 5 hours or more per week improved from their baseline performance. In contrast, those who practiced 4 hours or fewer showed an inconsistent pattern: some improved while others stayed the same or deteriorated. Our results suggest that even a short period of intensive language learning can modulate attentional functions and that all age groups can benefit from this effect. Moreover, these short-term effects can be maintained through continuous practice.

Concepts: Mathematics, Linguistics, Scotland, Language acquisition, Language education, Celtic languages, Scottish English, Scottish Gaelic


Previous studies of the genetic landscape of Ireland have suggested homogeneity, with population substructure undetectable using single-marker methods. Here we have harnessed the haplotype-based method fineSTRUCTURE in an Irish genome-wide SNP dataset, identifying 23 discrete genetic clusters which segregate with geographical provenance. Cluster diversity is pronounced in the west of Ireland but reduced in the east where older structure has been eroded by historical migrations. Accordingly, when populations from the neighbouring island of Britain are included, a west-east cline of Celtic-British ancestry is revealed along with a particularly striking correlation between haplotypes and geography across both islands. A strong relationship is revealed between subsets of Northern Irish and Scottish populations, where discordant genetic and geographic affinities reflect major migrations in recent centuries. Additionally, Irish genetic proximity of all Scottish samples likely reflects older strata of communication across the narrowest inter-island crossing. Using GLOBETROTTER we detected Irish admixture signals from Britain and Europe and estimated dates for events consistent with the historical migrations of the Norse-Vikings, the Anglo-Normans and the British Plantations. The influence of the former is greater than previously estimated from Y chromosome haplotypes. In all, we paint a new picture of the genetic landscape of Ireland, revealing structure which should be considered in the design of studies examining rare genetic variation and its association with traits.

Concepts: United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, England, Ireland, Scotland, British Isles, Celtic languages, Irish language


There are two competing hypotheses for the origin of the Indo-European language family. The conventional view places the homeland in the Pontic steppes about 6000 years ago. An alternative hypothesis claims that the languages spread from Anatolia with the expansion of farming 8000 to 9500 years ago. We used Bayesian phylogeographic approaches, together with basic vocabulary data from 103 ancient and contemporary Indo-European languages, to explicitly model the expansion of the family and test these hypotheses. We found decisive support for an Anatolian origin over a steppe origin. Both the inferred timing and root location of the Indo-European language trees fit with an agricultural expansion from Anatolia beginning 8000 to 9500 years ago. These results highlight the critical role that phylogeographic inference can play in resolving debates about human prehistory.

Concepts: Europe, German language, Historical linguistics, Language family, Indo-European languages, Proto-Indo-European language, Tarim mummies, Celtic languages


A total of 12 adult European sea bass Dicentrarchus labrax were tagged with pop-off satellite archival tags (PSAT) in Irish coastal waters and in offshore waters in the north-east Celtic Sea between 2015 and 2016. Archived data were successfully recovered from five of the 12 tags deployed, three from fish released in inshore Irish waters and two from fish released offshore in the eastern Celtic Sea. All three fish tagged in inshore waters were found to undertake migrations into the open ocean coinciding with the spawning period. These fish also exhibited fidelity to inshore sites post-migration, returning to the same general location (within c. 73 km, which is roughly the predicted mean accuracy of the method) of their original release site. Although the number of tracks obtained here was limited, some degree of aggregation between inshore and offshore tagged fish in the eastern Celtic Sea was noted during the expected spawning period suggesting PSATs can provide new information on specific spawning locations of European sea bass.

Concepts: Human migration, Eastern Europe, Ocean, European seabass, Sea bass, Celtic languages, Tagged, Isle of Man


In most societies, surnames are passed down from fathers to sons, just like the Y chromosome. It follows that, theoretically, men sharing the same surnames would also be expected to share related Y chromosomes. Previous investigations have explored such relationships, but so far, the only detailed studies that have been conducted are on samples from the British Isles. In order to provide additional insights into the correlation between surnames and Y chromosomes, we focused on the Spanish population by analysing Y chromosomes from 2121 male volunteers representing 37 surnames. The results suggest that the degree of coancestry within Spanish surnames is highly dependent on surname frequency, in overall agreement with British but not Irish surname studies. Furthermore, a reanalysis of comparative data for all three populations showed that Irish surnames have much greater and older surname descent clusters than Spanish and British ones, suggesting that Irish surnames may have considerably earlier origins than Spanish or British ones. Overall, despite closer geographical ties between Ireland and Britain, our analysis points to substantial similarities in surname origin and development between Britain and Spain, while possibly hinting at unique demographic or social events shaping Irish surname foundation and development.European Journal of Human Genetics advance online publication, 22 April 2015; doi:10.1038/ejhg.2015.75.

Concepts: Chromosome, United Kingdom, Europe, Y chromosome, English people, British Isles, Northern Ireland, Celtic languages


The purpose of our experiment was to test event-related potentials (ERP) accompanying the process of brand extension evaluation in people speaking Indo-European languages. The experimental procedure consisted of sequential presentations of pairs of stimuli; namely, a beverage brand name and a product name. The products fell into the category of beverages (congruent trials) or clothes (incongruent trials). In the response condition (RC), the participants decided whether they accepted the product as an extension of the brand. In the no-response condition (NRC), the participants' task was to attend the stimuli and try to remember them. In the response condition, the amplitudes of the N270, P300 and N400 components were sensitive to incongruence between the product category and the previously presented brand. However, in the no-response condition, differences emerged only at the level of early P1 and P2 components. Our results suggest that, in people speaking one of the Indo-European languages, the process of categorisation in brand extension evaluation is not automatic.

Concepts: Language, Programming language, German language, Historical linguistics, Language family, Indo-European languages, Proto-Indo-European language, Celtic languages


Abstract A distinction is drawn between Crystal’s bucket theory of language processing and an overflow of effects between different linguistic levels in language production. Most of the examples are drawn from Welsh (a language of mutual interest to the author and the honoree of this issue). For that reason, it is proposed that this effect is termed the rhaeadr effect (from the Welsh for waterfall). The rhaeadr effect is illustrated with the initial consonant mutation systems of Welsh and Irish, and with data from both normal phonological (and morphophonological) development and disordered speech.

Concepts: Phonology, Syllable, Linguistics, Language, Vowel, Psycholinguistics, Celtic languages, Irish people


Calmodulin (CaM) plays a key role in modulating channel gating in ryanodine receptor (RyR2). Here, we investigated (a) the pathogenic role of CaM in the channel disorder in CPVT and (b) the possibility of correcting the CPVT-linked channel disorder, using knock-in (KI) mouse model with CPVT-associated RyR2 mutation (R2474S).

Concepts: Immune system, Receptor, Ryanodine receptor, Ryanodine, Calcium channel, English Channel, Ryanodine receptor 2, Celtic languages


To determine prevalence and demographics of two myosin-binding protein C (MYBPC3) mutations that affect ragdolls (R820W) and Maine coons (A31P) in the British Isles.

Concepts: United Kingdom, English people, British Isles, British people, Channel Islands, Celtic languages, Geography of Europe, British Islands