Course description for BIOL-L 410 Genetics of Behavior:
Prerequisites: BIOL-L 111, BIOL-L 112, BIOL-L 113, BIOL-L 211
It is easy to accept the fact that certain individual human properties are in large part genetically determined. We have no difficulty in believing that our eye color, our hair, our height, or our blood pressure are features that vary due to the exact complement of inherited genetic variants. Yet, when it comes to our brains and our behavior, genetic determinism becomes more difficult to accept and is highly controversial. Do “behavior genes” exist? How would one define a gene as a behavior gene? These are some of the questions that we will attempt to answer in this class. First, we will review the literature that demonstrates concrete examples of how single genes can affect behaviors. Then, we will examine the evidence from simple animals like insects as well as rodent models. Finally, we will examine the evidence that specific gene variants can affect human behavior in very specific and interesting ways.