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Genes, Behavior, and the Social Environment: Moving Beyond the Nature/Nurture Debate
factors on health and can provide an important complement to clinical and community-based research. Therefore the committee makes the following recommendation:
Recommendation 6: Use Animal Models to Study Gene-Social Environment Interaction.The NIH should develop RFAs that usecarefully selected animal models for research on the impact onhealth of interactions among social, behavioral, and genetic factorsand their interactive pathways (i.e., physiological).
The selection of the animal model should be based upon the type and complexity of the interaction to be explored. Furthermore, studies should be conducted using outbred, inbred, and wild caught animals. Appropriate animal models should be sensitive enough to register clinically relevant change in vivo; ensure that laboratory conditions are consistent with the ecological and ethological context in which the animals naturally live; recognize, account for, and preferably measure unintended physiological consequences of experimental manipulations when generating data and interpreting results; enable the examination and identification of psychological and/or physiological mediators of interactions among genes, behavior, and the social environment; enable the experimental testing of causality; and parallel human models when relevant and possible.
It probably would be advisable to establish animal housing facilities that more closely approximate each animal’s natural habitat, but this would be difficult to implement. Care would need to be taken to ensure accuracy (i.e., thoroughly understand and replicate most if not all relevant ecological and ethological factors in the vivarium) and standardization across different research groups (i.e., once ecological and ethological factors are established, housing conditions designed to take them into account should be standardized across different laboratories). The standardization aspect may be a significant obstacle, because different research groups may have different opinions on what ethologically and ecologically relevant conditions are and how they should be replicated in the vivarium. However, not standardizing housing could result in significant interlaboratory variations that may make studies difficult if not impossible to replicate and compare between laboratories. In contrast, it also may be beneficial to have multiple types of environments, as an approach that would more closely mimic human living conditions (e.g., country versus city dwelling).
Ademuyiwa FO, Olopade OI. 2003. Racial differences in genetic factors associated with breast cancer. Cancer and Metastasis Reviews 22(1):47-53.