News of the WeekBehavioral Genetics

Fickle Mice Highlight Test Problems

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Science  04 Jun 1999:
Vol. 284, Issue 5420, pp. 1599-1600
DOI: 10.1126/science.284.5420.1599a

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No sooner has one group of researchers tied a gene to a behavior when along comes the next study, proving that the link is spurious or even that the gene in question has exactly the opposite effect. Now, on page 1670, behavioral geneticists from three labs across North America report that they applied the same battery of behavioral tests to the same strains of mice, under almost exactly the same circumstances--and yet they often got strikingly different results. This implies that almost undetectable environmental differences may have large behavioral consequences, a finding that is bound to complicate efforts to pin down the genetic influences on behavior.