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Behavior - Twin And Adoption Studies, Complex Genetics, Animal Models, Alcoholism In Humans, Twin Studies Of Alcoholism

Medicine EncyclopediaGenetics in Medicine - Part 1

What is behavior? A dictionary definition reveals that behavior consists of our activities and actions, especially actions toward one another. As such definitions suggest, many behavioral terms have meaning only in social comparisons: We identify others as contentious, courteous, or conscientious only by their actions in social contexts. A long-standing question in science and in everyday affairs inquires about the causes of individual differences in behavior: Why are some people gregarious extroverts and others timid, shy introverts?

Behavior genetics is a hybrid area of science, at the intersection of human genetics and psychology. Its focus is on how genes and environments contribute to differences in behavior. It is a young discipline. A book that Identical twins share all their genes, and, if raised together, much of their environment. Together, genes and environment determine many aspects of behavior. gave the field its name was published in 1960, and a decade later the Behavior Genetics Association was founded. For a time, most behavior genetics research was an effort to show that the term was not itself an oxymoron—that variations in genes do contribute to individual differences in behavior. Now, as a result of that research, the relevance and importance of genetic variation to individual differences in behavior are widely accepted, and the challenging task is to identify specific gene-behavior pathways. In this entry, we will review the methods used to identify such pathways and then focus on one set of behaviors, use and abuse of alcohol, as a model for the study of genetic and environmental influences.

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