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Rethinking Behavior Genetics

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The article “Rethinking Behavior Genetics” targets members of the scientific community in that it seeks to highlight differences between the first 100 years of studies in behavior genetics and the current century of the studies. Additionally, the author tries to focus on the major problems facing the current studies in behavior genetics on one hand, and the recommended solutions to the problems on the other hand (Hamer 71-72). Accordingly, the author manages to effectively draw a distinction between the first 100 years of studies in behavior genetics and the present day studies on the same topic by noting that the former studies produced excellent results because the approaches followed were straightforward. During the first century, it is apparent that almost all studies were centered on finding the link between genes and various aspects of behavior and such aspects as personality, psychiatric disorders, cognitive styles, and temperament among others (Hamer 71). However, the author fails to review any successful study from this period to illustrate his view-point. Here, despite most studies documenting that different effects of heredity were central to variations in behavior, thoughts, and feelings, there is little evidence to show the direct link to date.

As a result, Hamer (71) notes that the second century of studies in behavior genetics is marked by efforts to research specific genes responsible for individual differences in behavior. Further, the author notes that the findings from such studies are less than satisfying considering that to date none of the studies published has produced conclusive results. This is mainly because many scientists are pursuing the same line of investigation as their fellow researchers in the past century whereby it was assumed that the relationship between genes and behavior is direct. However, Hamer (71) prefers a different line of investigation, which takes into account the effect of gene networks and the environment (parents, economics, siblings, and education) in the cognitive processes underlying different behaviors.

From the studies reviewed in the article, it is apparent that different factors related to the environment affect gene networks, which in turn contribute to different behaviors. For example, the serotonin transporter gene has been shown to influence the response of the amygdala region to various fearful stimuli through a DNA sequence, which is also associated with atypical levels of anxiety (Hamer 71). As a result, there is an evidence to suggest that behavior is a manifestation of various interconnected systems, which work together to produce a specific action. These systems have been narrowed down to gene networks, environmental conditions, and the cognitive processes. On the other hand, Hamer (72) notes that the second century of studies in behavior genetics is ailing from the lack of biological logic in designing research methods, which can produce satisfactory results. In as much as this is a contributing factor to the problems experienced in research today, it is not entirely to blame considering that there are other underlying factors such as limited resources, socio-medical politics, and lack of mechanisms to replicate animal studies using human subjects, which may hinder the ability of contemporary studies to go into conclusion.

Ultimately, Hamer (72) notes that the future of behavior genetics should be guided by the development of mechanisms, technologies, and techniques, which can be used to study the simultaneous activities of different genes implicated in a specific behavior. This is very true considering that the human brain is a complex network of circuits working around numerous genes to produce different behaviors. As a result, the development of techniques and equipment with the functionality of microarray analysis will shape the future of behavior genetics by enabling scientists to study various activities of gene networks in the production of specific behaviors. Overall, this article is very effective in highlighting various weaknesses of the on-going studies in behavior genetics besides enlightening members of the scientific community on the need to embrace technological advancements and biological logic in their present and future studies.

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