Our Genes, Our Choices

Our Genes, Our Choices

How Genotype and Gene Interactions Affect Behavior

1st Edition - May 1, 2012

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  • Author: David Goldman
  • Paperback ISBN: 9780123969521
  • eBook ISBN: 9780123972019

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Our Genes, Our Choices: How Genotype and Gene Interactions Affect Behavior — First Prize winner of the 2013 BMA Medical Book Award for Basic and Clinical Sciences — explains how the complexity of human behavior, including concepts of free will, derives from a relatively small number of genes, which direct neurodevelopmental sequence. Are people free to make choices, or do genes determine behavior? Paradoxically, the answer to both questions is "yes," because of neurogenetic individuality, a new theory with profound implications. Author David Goldman uses judicial, political, medical, and ethical examples to illustrate that this lifelong process is guided by individual genotype, molecular and physiologic principles, as well as by randomness and environmental exposures, a combination of factors that we choose and do not choose. Written in an authoritative yet accessible style, the book includes practical descriptions of the function of DNA, discusses the scientific and historical bases of genethics, and introduces topics of epigenetics and the predictive power of behavioral genetics.

Key Features

  • First Prize winner of the 2013 BMA Medical Book Award for Basic and Clinical Sciences
  • Poses and resolves challenges to moral responsibility raised by modern genetics and neuroscience
  • Analyzes the neurogenetic origins of human behavior and free will
  • Written by one of the world's most influential neurogeneticists, founder of the Laboratory of Neurogenetics at the National Institutes of Health


Students and researchers involved in human genetics, medical genetics, behavioral genetics and neurogenetics.

Table of Contents

  • A Note on Gene and Protein Symbols



    About the Author

    Chapter 1. The Neurogenetic Origins of Behavior

    Chapter 2. The Jinn in the Genome

    Fifteen Minutes of Fame

    Some Famous Geneticists, and Why they are Famous

    The Jinn of Knowledge and the Jinn of Technology

    Revolutions in Culture and Evolution of Genes

    Genes, Brain and Individuality

    The Neurogenetics of Determinism and Freedom

    Chapter 3. 2B or Not 2B?

    A Common Gene Knockout Causing Severe Impulsivity

    Validating a Human Impulsivity Gene in a Mouse Model

    Chapter 4. Stephen Mobley and His X-Chromosome

    The Kallikak Effect

    Mobley Demands a Genetic Test

    Combining Gene and Hormone to Predict Impulsivity

    Carrying Kohl to Italy

    The State of DNA in Prediction of Violence

    Chapter 5. Dial Multifactorial for Murder

    A Murder in the Lab

    Missing Puzzle Pieces, an Obstacle to Behavioral Reductionism

    Why are Some Societies More Violent than Others?

    Guns or People?

    Can Gun Control Civilize People, and If So, What Does That Mean?

    Violent Youth

    Chapter 6. Distorted Capacity I

    The Inheritance of Impulsivity, and What It Means

    Impulsivity Differs from Person to Person and From Species to Species: The Gorilla and the King

    Zero-Trial Learning

    Impulsivity and Aggression in Context

    Measuring Impulsivity and Aggression by Life History

    Measuring Impulsivity and Aggression by Experiment

    Integrating Experimental and Life History Measures of Impulsivity with Genes and Neural Circuits

    Animal Models of Impulsivity and Aggression

    Chapter 7. Distorted Capacity II

    Impulsivity, Aggression and Neuropsychiatric Disease

    Diseases with Disordered Impulse

    Disorders of Impulse Control

    Chapter 8. Inheritance of Behavior and Genes “For” Behavior

    The Debate on the Heritability of Behavior

    Genome Determines Reaction Range

    Reaction Range: Theory and Reality

    Twin Studies: The Controversy and the Method

    The Debate on Genes “For” Behavior

    People Are Not Monkeys

    The Politics of Behavioral Genetics

    Questioning the Phenotype: Is Psychiatric Diagnosis Valid?

    Chapter 9. The Scientific and Historic Bases of Genethics

    Standards of Science and Standards of Evidence

    Genethics of Research: Trust, but Verify

    Why It Is a Chore to Get a Human Study Approved: A Brief Lesson in Expedience

    Are Genetic Studies Harmful?

    Genes, Jobs and Groups: Individual and Class Impact

    The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act

    Genethics of Gene Therapy

    Group Consent or Individual Consent?

    Autonomy: Pretense and Realism

    Chapter 10. The World is Double Helical

    Recipes for DNA Analysis

    What Is Polymorphism?

    Protein Polymorphism

    DNA Polymorphism

    Measured Ancestry

    Chapter 11. The Stochastic Brain


    Cell Assembly

    The Protein Interactome: Six Degrees of Molecular Separation


    Snowflakes and Neurons

    Brain Genes: Cascade Effects, Chaotic Effects and Great Attractors

    Brain Assembly

    Use It or Lose It

    The Fractal Nature of Individual Neurons

    Higher Order Brain Structure and Randomness

    The Stochastic Basis of Behavioral Intelligence: Guided Randomness

    Rules that Guide the Chaos of Brain Development and Evolution

    Genetic Individuality, Chaos and Sense of Self

    Chapter 12. Reintroducing Genes and Behavior

    Behavioral Prediction, a Science Imperfect

    Commercialization of Genetic Behavioral Prediction

    The Future of Genetic Behavioral Prediction

    A Gene Causing Anemia

    A Gene Causing Self-Mutilation

    A Gene Causing Mental Retardation

    What is a Genetic Test?

    Chapter 13. Warriors and Worriers

    A Common Gene “For” Cognitive Function

    Executive Cognitive Function

    Cognitive Flexibility


    Warriors and Worriers

    Chapter 14. How Many Genes Does it Take to Make a Behavior?

    Epistatic and Polygenic Models of Behavior: On Epistasis

    Bayesian Reasoning: How to Use Prior Probability

    Behavior and the Single Gene

    Chapter 15. The Genesis and Genetics of Sexual Behavior

    Biological Determinants of Sexual Behavior

    We Are Love Machines

    Sneaker Males and Other Alternative Reproductive Strategies

    Slaves to Sex: The Difficulty of Turning Off the Sex Drive

    A Better Sex Life: How People Modulate and Harness Their Sex Drives

    Forbidden Pleasures: Why Are Some People Turned On by Shoes?

    Sex and Psychosis

    Homosexuality and the “Gay Gene”

    Elliot Gershon and the In-Depth Family Paradigm

    Discovery of the “Gay Gene”

    Inheritance of Homosexuality

    How Prevalent is Homosexuality?

    “Father Knows Best”, but He Didn’t Tell You

    The Future of the Genetics of Sexuality: A Bright and Shining Path

    Chapter 16. Gene By Environment Interaction

    Nature, In Extremis

    Nurture, In Extremis

    Asking the Right Question about Nature/Nurture

    Gene-Guided Intervention

    What is a Gene By Environment Interaction?

    Genes that Modulate Stress Resilience

    Imaging Genetics: A Window into the Brain

    Intermediate Phenotypes and Endophenotypes

    Imaging Genetics and Stress Resiliency

    Gene By Environment: Back to Complex Clinical Outcomes

    Genocide and Resiliency in Rwanda

    Animal Models of Gene By Stress Interaction

    Love, in Monkeys?

    Chapter 17. The Epigenetic Revolution

    An Imprint of Experience in the DNA

    Types of Epigenetic Imprint

    Wiping the Epigenetic Slate (Nearly) Clean …

    … But Not Quite Clean

    Evolutionary Sculpting of CpG Islands

    How to Measure Epigenetic Variation

    First Look at the “Depth” of the Human Genome

    Chapter 18. DNA on Trial

    Is Everyone as Free to Choose?

    Impulsivity and Impulsive Choice

    A Rare Gene for Impulsivity

    The Legal Crucible for Genotypic Prediction

    New Revolutions in Genotypic Prediction

    Ideology and the Genetics of Behavioral Prediction

    Chapter 19. Parents and Children

    A Brief Manual of Parenting

    Free Will: The Conundrum of Behavioral Causality

    Exorcising the Specter of Genetic Behavioral Determinism

    A Little Personality Goes a Long Way

    Different Niches for Different Folks

    Chapter 20. Summing Up Genetic Predictors of Behavior

    Suggested Reading

    List of Figures



Product details

  • No. of pages: 272
  • Language: English
  • Copyright: © Academic Press 2012
  • Published: May 1, 2012
  • Imprint: Academic Press
  • Paperback ISBN: 9780123969521
  • eBook ISBN: 9780123972019

About the Author

David Goldman

David Goldman
Dr. David Goldman received his B.S. from Yale University in 1974. He received his M.D. degree in 1978 and completed residency training in psychiatry in 1979, both at the University of Texas Medical Branch. Dr. Goldman joined the NIAAA in 1979 and has been chief of the Laboratory of Neurogenetics since 1991. Throughout his career, Dr. Goldman has focused on the identification of genetic factors responsible for inherited differences in behavior. His laboratory is currently exploring the genetics of alcoholism, substance abuse, and related health problems.

Affiliations and Expertise

Laboratory of Neurogenetics, NIAAA, Rockville, MD, USA

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