The hunt for gene effects pertinent to behavioral traits and psychiatric disorders: from mouse to human

Dev Psychobiol. 2012 Jul;54(5):475-92. doi: 10.1002/dev.21043.


The field of behavioral genetics was reviewed in the classic 1960 text by Fuller and Thompson. Since then, there has been remarkable progress in the genetic analysis of animal behavior. Many molecular genetic methods in common use today were not even anticipated in 1960. Animal models for many human psychiatric disorders have been discovered or created. In human behavior genetics, however, powerful new methods have failed to reveal even one bona fide, replicable gene effect pertinent to the normal range of variation in intelligence and personality. There is no explanatory or predictive value in that genetic information. For several psychiatric disorders, including autism and schizophrenia, many large genetic effects arise from de novo mutations. Genetically, the disorders are heterogeneous; different cases with the same diagnosis have different causes. The promises of the molecular genetic revolution have not been fulfilled in behavioral domains of most interest to human psychology.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autistic Disorder / genetics*
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Genetics, Behavioral* / history
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Intelligence / genetics*
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis
  • Mental Disorders / genetics*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred Strains / genetics
  • Mice, Transgenic / genetics
  • Multifactorial Inheritance / genetics*
  • Phenotype
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Schizophrenia / genetics*