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  • Writer's pictureDr. Lisalee D. Egbert

Tracing the Roots of Deafness

Updated: May 9, 2023



This talk was given on October 20, 2014 by Dr. Derek Braun on his research into the evolutionary history of a gene associated with deafness. He asks the question of what value could this gene have imparted to individuals throughout history for it to have remained prevalent in the human population.

Here is the Tedx description of his talk:

This talk was given at a local TEDx event, produced independently of the TED Conferences. Dr. Braun is currently reconstructing the genealogy of the connexin 26 gene, which causes much of the congenital deafness in the American deaf community. The overall goal of this project is to answer some fundamental questions about why and how the large number of current connexin 26 mutations first appeared, and what these mutations and their histories can tell us about human evolution. There is some fascinating evidence that connexin 26 mutations might make deaf individuals resistant to diarrheal diseases such as dysentery and cholera, a major cause of death over the past 2,000 years.

Derek Braun is a professor and geneticist at Gallaudet University’s Department of Science, Technology and Mathematics. Gallaudet is the world’s only liberal arts university for deaf and hard-of-hearing students. He oversees the Molecular Genetics Laboratory, where deaf undergraduate students perform research alongside deaf faculty. Research interests include mutations in the connexin 26 gene, which are responsible for up to half of congenital deafness in many world populations.

About TEDx, x = independently organized event In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations)

Here is the link to the talk:

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