Department of Biological and Medical Sciences


  • You can find news stories from our lab below. You can also follow the lab on twitter @diannenewbury

    September 2019

    You may have read about our JSLHR paper in the Oxford Mail this week or heard about it on JackFM. The full paper can be found here.

    August 2019

    Our paper describing shared genetic influences between language development and mental health is now availble in the Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research.

    This research was performed in collaboation with Umar Toseeb at the University of York through an ESRC award.

    July 2019

    Hayley will be presenting our reesarch about Leverhulme funded backwards speech at two conferences this summer - the Society for the Neurobiology of Language Conference in Helsinki and the Cognomics meeting in Nijmegen.

    If you can speak backwards, we would love to hear from you.

    June 2019

    You can see a poster (P02.06D) describing our research at the European Society of Human Genetics in Gothenberg this week. Good luck to Lidiya, our PhD student, who is presenting the poster.

    May 2019

    Our new paper investigating candidate genes for speech and language disorders is now out in Annals of Human Biology

    March 2019

    I have been selected to take part in the "3rd Degree" Radio 4 Quiz show which pits students against tutors. Recording is on March 19th. Come along to Brookes if you want to watch.

    March 2019

    I will be presenting our work on the Robinson Crusoe population at the Pierre Royer seminar of Genetics at the Imagine Institute in Paris, on Thursday March the 14th.

    February 2019

    Lidiya will be presenting a workshop at the Brookes Science Bazaar this weekend. Her activity is called "Ears are us" and it will explain how sound is transferred through our ears and processed in the brain.

    Three papers submitted this December in the run up to Christmas! Watch this space!

    November 2018

    Pleased to announce that we have a fully-funded PhD place in our lab starting October 2019. The project is titled "Genetic contributions to neurodevelopmental disorders". Details can be found on

    November 2018

    Delighted to be invited to speak at Birkbeck College in London today. A blog about my talk can be found at BabyBrains.

    October 2018

    A paper describing stage 2 of our analyses of genetic effects upon language in individuals with sex chromosome trisomies has now been published in Wellcome Open Research.

    October 2018

    Off to St Andrews to present our research about speech and language and auditory processing. Excited to be able to meet with researchers from different disciplines while I am there.

    October 2018

    Starting the new run of the Brookes MSc in Medical Genetics and Genomics. We have seventeen students this year!

    September 2018

    Off to Bradford today to present our findings from Umar Toseeb's ESRC-funded project on genetic contributions to individual differences in language.

    August 2018

    Hayley is off to Israel and the USA this summer to start collecting samples for our Leverhulme-funded backwards speech project!

    If you can speak backwards, we would love to hear from you -

    August 2018

    I will be presenting at COld Spring Harbor this summer on the Genetics and Neurobiology of Language course. The line-up looks amazing!

    July 2018

    Looking forward to meeting with our Australian colleagues this week at the mini-symposium on the neurobiology of speech and language at Great Ormond Street Hospital. I will be presenting data from our recent exome and CNV screens in language disorders.

    June 2018

    A big CONGRATULATIONS to all our MSc medical genetics and genomics graduates.Very proud of you all!

    MSc graduates

    June 2018

    Hayley will be presenting her work about the population structure of the Robinson Crusoe population at the European Society of Human Genetics in Milan this weekend.

    P18.02B / B - Investigating the population structure of Robinson Crusoe Island, Chile

    Robinson Crusoe (RCI) is a geographically and socially isolated island located 670km west of San Antonio, Chile. It was founded in 1876 by a group of eight founder families. It is now home to over 800 inhabitants, most of whom are descended from the original founder families. The geographical isolation of RCI means few outsiders have migrated to the island. As a result, islanders share a high degree of consanguinity (14.9%), and most islander unions are at least second cousins (Villanueva et al 2014).
    RCI islanders show an exceptionally high occurrence rate of developmental language disorder, 10-fold the rate seen in mainland Chile. Near complete islander genealogical records have shown that 90% of affected children are direct descendants of a pair of original founder brothers, who likely carried a susceptibility variant for language disorders (Villanueva et al 2014).
    To understand the genetic contribution to developmental language disorder on RCI, we have investigated the underlying population structure of the islanders. Extensive pedigree data suggest the current islander population are of recently admixed European and Chilean backgrounds. Recent studies have shown a higher proportion of indigenous South American ancestry in the mainland Chilean population than previously thought (Lorenzo-Bermejo et al 2017), and this may therefore be directly relevant to the RCI population.
    Using high density genome-wide SNP genotyping data from 154 islanders, and whole genome sequencing from 24 of the most distantly related islanders, we have performed the first in-depth genetic analysis of the population structure of RCI.

    June 2018

    Getting excited about my keynote lecture at the symposium on Neurobiology of Speech-Language Disorders: Genetic and MRI Advances at UCL on 9th July 2018.

    You can book tickets at the  UCL store

    June 2018

    Very happy to be in our lovely new lab here at Brookes

    Brookes lab photo

    May 2018

    Our new paper describing the family aggregation of language disorders in the Robinson Crusoe population is now available to read

    May 2018

    Our backwards speech study starts this month. Can you reverse speak? If so, get in touch - we would love to work with you to understand this fascinating ability.

    Thanks to the Leverhulme Trust for making this research possible.

    May 2018

    Looking forward to meeting with everyone at University of Connecticut for the Meet and Speak. I will give a talk and meet with our collaborators at the Murine Research Unit.

    Thanks to the Santander Travel Award for making this possible.

    April 2018

    I am happy to say that I will be at the Cold Spring Harbour Genetics and Neurobiology meeting in July.

    Feb 2018

    So excited to be working with Dorothy Bishop and colleagues on a study looking into variation of language in trisomy patients.

    A protocol paper has been registered in the Wellcome Open Research Journal.

    December 2017

    Read our latest review article discussing the genomic landscape of language - it's open access -

    December 2017

    Thank you to the Leverhulme Trust ( for funding our most recent project - Backwards speaking - gnikaeps sdrawkcab. The project will start in May. If you can talk backwards and would like more information, get in touch. Watch this space and twitter (@diannenewbury) for further information.

    October 2017

    Our PhD student, Lidiya is in Glasgow today on a peer review workshop run by sense about science - You can read her blog at

    September 2017

    Delighted to be talking at the Curiosity Carnival in Oxford about our work on the Robinson Crusoe Island. We got a spot in a yurt on the rooftop!

    September 2017

    A new collaborative paper exploring methodological issues in the replication of genetic findings in neuroscience is now out. A link to the abstract is given on our  publications page.

    August 2017

    Started to film our new podcast about auditory processing disorder this afternoon - keep an eye on the website!

    April 2017

    Our new paper is out today. This research describes an investigation of the role of microRNA on speech and language and neurodevelopmental disorders and is collaboration with researchers at the Max Planck Institute in Nijmegen. The paper is open access and a link to the pdf is given on our  publications page.

    March 2017

    Our paper describing exome sequencing of children affected by Specific Language Impairment is now available through Scientific Reports.The paper is open access and a link to the pdf is given on our  publications page.

    October 2016

    Delighted to be moving to Brookes University. I am taking the position of senior lecturer on the MSc in medical genetics and genomics. Our research programme will carry on at Brookes University in their shiny new labs!

    September 2016

    I was very happy to give a talk at the II Jornadas Internacionales TEL in Madrid. The conference brought together experts and families affected by language impairment. You can find more information about the organisation at

    September 2016

    The CLARA (Chilean Language and Reading Alliance) reading intervention programme starts today! In collaboration with the Centre for Reading and Language @ Oxford and the Universidad de Chile, we are piloting a reading intervention study on the Robinson Crusoe Island. Studies show that explicit training in phonological (speech-sounds) awareness, letter knowledge and reading can provide long-term educational advantages for children with language difficulties (Snowling and Hulme, 2012). The programme will draw upon interventions that have proven success and develop materials and qualified trainers to allow their delivery in Chilean school settings. Strong language foundations bolster literacy development and numeracy skills and provide a wider framework for classroom learning maximising employment opportunities and promoting economic and social well-being in the longer-term. For more information see

    June 2016

    I was really happy to attend the CONFER conference this weekend with Nessa Carey and Oliver James. I got to meet lots of interesting psychotherapists and we debated whether genes contribute to mental disorders. You can find a copy of my talk in the presentations section of our website.

    June 2016

    You can meet two of our young investigators at the European Society of Human Genetics this week. Fabiola Ceroni will be presenting a poster describing her findings in a case study of Childhood Disintegrative Disorder (CDD), a rare and devastating form of autism with regression and Stefan Prekovic will be presenting a poster describing his characterisation of a family with the rare ability to speak backwards. You can download pdf versions of their posters from the poster section of our presentations page.

    March 2016

    Our paper investigating the role of a variable number tandem repeat (VNTR) at the PCSK6 locus in association to handedness is now available in Human molecular Genetics. The paper finds that a variant within the PCSK6 gene alters a binding site for a nuclear factor and flanks a bidirectional promoter of RNA transcripts. The paper is open access and a link to the pdf is given on our publications page.

    February 2016

    We are currently looking for a postdoc to help with an exciting collaborative project with the Department of Experimental Psychology.

    THIS IS NOT A GENETICS POSTDOC - You will need to have a PhD in Psychology, Speech-Language Sciences, Education or equivalent with excellent communication skills. With a proven ability to coordinate research and the ability to work independently, you will also have a strong communicative ability in Spanish and English and a willingness to travel within the UK and to Chile when required.

    November 2015

    I was lucky enough to be invited to talk at the Genetics Society "Building the Brain" conference last week. The conference brought together researchers across molecular genetics, neuroscience, cognition, behaviour and evolution to discuss the formation and function of the brain. A copy of the abstract for my talk can be found on our presentations page. A full outline can be found on the genetics society website.

    October 2015

    You can now watch a 1-minute podcast of our ongoing study in collaboration with researchers from the University of Chile. In January, I was lucky enough to visit Chile and made a video to explain what I was doing there. You can see other podcasts of our research on the lab podcast page.

    August 2015

    You can now read our new paper in Plos One. This paper follows up on our recent investigations of copy number variants (deletions and duplications of genetic material) in children with neurodevelopmental disorders. We looked at 85 children with language-related difficulties and describe a case with a deletion on chromosome 15 (15q11-13del). Large genetic disruptions in this region lead to Prader-Willi and Angelman syndromes and smaller rearrangements have been described in children with autism and developmental delay. This case expands the phenotype associated with deletions on 15q and extends the evidence that some cases of SLI may be caused by micro-deletion/-duplication syndromes.

    July 2015

    We welcomed students from John Hampden Grammar School to the lab for the day. They learnt how to extract DNA and had a tour of the genomics labs.

    July 2015

    Ten students spent the week in the lab with us last week trying to recreate some DNA art. We had a fantastic week pouring gels, running PCRs and using bioinformatic databases. Having the students around always reminds me how lucky I am to have this job. They are always so enthusiastic and animated about everything they see and learn. Thank you to everyone who took part.

    June 2015

    For each of the primary research papers coming from our lab, we will now provide a short summary in plain English which summarises the main conclusions from the paper. Each infographic is followed by a link from which you can download a one-page summary describing the aims of the paper and it's main findings. Infographics are found towards the bottom of the main page. Full papers can still be downloaded from our publications link.

    April 2015

    Our new research paper describes the exome sequencing of five individuals from the Robinson Crusoe population in Chile. This population are affected by a particularly high incidence of speech and language impairment. Our study found a genetic variant in the NFXL1 gene that was significantly more common in Islanders affected by SLI than those with typical language impairment. We went on to sequence the NFXL1 gene in individuals affected by SLI from the UK and identified three more coding changes indicating that variants within NFXL1 may predispose to SLI.

    March 2015

    You can read a diary of my recent visit to the Robinson Crusoe Island on the Centres blog site.

    February 2015

    Our new research paper describes the characterisation of small deletions and duplications of genetic material in SLI. These "copy number variants" are known to be important in disorders like autism but no-one had looked at their role in SLI before. In our study we found that individuals affected by SLI had more CNVs that were larger than those found in population controls. We found that this was also the case for family members of individuals affected by SLI, regardless of whether they themselves had language difficulties or not. These data suggest that there is a general increase in the CNV burden in families affected by SLI meaning that all family members are at risk of language difficulties. The exact position of the deletions or duplications and the genes they affect may then increase or decrease the chances of language impairment for any given individual within that family.

    January 2015

    jan2015  mayor Robinson Crusoe

    I have just returned from a visit to the Robinson Crusoe Island. It was fantastic to be able to meet the Islanders and to talk to them about life on the Island and our research project. Everyone was so friendly and interested in the research. I talked to the mayor of the Island and our Chilean collaborators about the research completed so far and the direction of the project in the future. We are hoping to send a team in March to complete further data collections. Many thanks to the MRC for funding this visit through their International collaboration poster competition