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Behavioural genetics

Behavioural genetics (Commonwealth English) or behavioral genetics (American English), also referred to as behaviour genetics, is a field of scientific research that uses genetic methods to investigate the nature and origins of individual differences in behaviour. While the name "behavioural genetics" connotes a focus on genetic influences, the field broadly investigates genetic and environmental influences, using research designs that allow removal of the confounding of genes and environment. Behavioural genetics was founded as a scientific discipline by Francis Galton in the late 19th century, only to be discredited through association with eugenics movements before and during World War II. In the latter half of the 20th century, the field saw renewed prominence with research on inheritance of behaviour and mental illness in humans (typically using twin and family studies), as well as research on genetically informative model organisms through selective breeding and crosses. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, technological advances in molecular genetics made it possible to measure and modify the genome directly. This led to major advances in model organism research (e.g., knockout mice) and in human studies (e.g., genome-wide association studies), leading to new scientific discoveries.

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Stanford Professor lays the groundwork for the process of thinking of behavior in terms of genetically inheritable traits using various examples to determine relevance of nature vs nurture influences.

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The completion of the Human Genome Project and the development of affordable whole genome sequencing will allow new methods toward insight into the nature of genetically predisposed behavior.

Contributed by Case Lorance

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