Book Review: Model Behavior: Animal Experiments, Complexity, and the Genetics of Psychiatric Disorders by Nicole C. Nelson

I bought this book out of whim when I saw it on a book blog. I expected it to be a recount of mice studies and what scientist are doing on the field. It was a surprise that this was an anthropological study about a mice laboratory. I didn’t mind.

At the beginning of the book, it took time to adjust back to how academical studies are presented and written. This slowed me down, but I soon got the hang of it. Don’t get me wrong the book is well written and easy to approach.

The book concentrated on a Coastal laboratory and the issues which arose there. I found fascinating to read about the workers personal accounts and what they thought about laboratory work, working with mice (with different personalities), the importance of their work, restrictions they face, and so on. This book gave a great insight into what working in a mice laboratory can be. It was eye-opening to learn the reasons behind strictly controlled animal research. And no the answer isn’t the dominance of environment, it is about the ability to isolate factors and study them. After reading about the studies (alcoholism and anxiety), the best thing I took out of the book was that neither environment nor genetics determine our behavior. They both have a role in our lives. This is a less sexy answer than any determinist view and thus ignored on our press (not always.) On the bright side, now we get to blame them both.

Throughout the book, the question of animal testing came out. If we can say so little with certainty and if you can’t make a straight allegory between mice and men, then why do we do it? Why we put millions of our money into getting mice drunk and stoned when the answers are at best it might be, we need more testing or more than often the research is rebutted by another duplicated study? Is there no alternative way now? Maybe someday testing can be done on a cellular level with no need for a live specimen, but behavior studies are a different matter. You can’t go so far with statistics, but then again how does mice’s behavior compare to ours? I hope someday the mice can retire to their rehab centers to live active unaltered lives.

This is a good book. If you have time, I recommend you pick it up and read it. The book shows what goes into laboratory research and science behind some claims we find misinterpreted on our news. I think this is a book everyone should read.

Thank you for reading!

P.S. Fittingly this is my 42. book review.

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