Books in short


An Introduction to Ecological Genomics
N. M. van Straalen and D. Roelofs

Oxford University Press, 2006. £32.50 (paperback), viii + 307 pp. ISBN 978-0-19-856671-7

It is not every day that a new field gets born, but this book is intended as a course book for a brand new field, ecological genomics. Not surprisingly, the first chapter is dedicated to defining the field as studying ‘the structure and functioning of a genome with the aim of understanding the relationship between the organism and its biotic and abiotic environments’. Subsequent chapters are dedicated to such topics as genome analysis and comparison and life history patterns. A final chapter tries to tie all this together. Here, the authors quite rightly point to the diversifying trend in ecology and in the whole of biology and their expectation that genomics could lead to a reunification of the field.

Neurogenetics. Scientific and Clinical Advances
D. R. Lynch and J. M. Farmer (eds)

Taylor & Francis, 2006. $199.95, xxi + 757 pp. ISBN 0-8247-2942-0

‘Neurogenetics’ is quite a sweeping title, but as the subtitle indicates, this book is limited to the human, and even more specifically, the clinical part of the field. Apart from this minor quibble, this book represents a valuable resource for professionals involved with hereditary human neurological disorders. Neurology is also interpreted narrowly and such brain disorders as schizophrenia that traditionally have been in the realm of psychiatry are not included. After five general chapters treating subjects like genetic counseling and ethical dilemmas, there follow 23 chapters discussing the latest findings concerning such disorders as Charcot-Marie-Tooth, Huntington’s, tauopathies and Alzheimer’s Disease, among many others. Each chapter presents diagnostic criteria, pathology, epidemiology, genetics and treatment strategies.

Wrestling with Behavioral Genetics. Science, Ethics and Public Conversation
E. Parens, A. R. Chapman and N. Press (eds)

Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006. $50, xxxv + 336 pp. ISBN 0-8018-8224-9

For some reason, ethics is not a very popular subject among behavioral and neural geneticists. Probably, the subject is associated by many with the ideological clashes that occurred in the past. This book is a good way to overcome that prejudice. The different chapters are contributed by active geneticists and ethicists, strongly influenced by V. Elving Anderson. It is written in such a way that the scientific issues become clear also for non-specialists. I would like to stress that this book is not only relevant for those of us working with humans. In the last few years, we have seen large media coverage for animal work (‘the IQ gene’, ‘the aggression gene’) and animal researchers, too, have a responsibility in how they communicate their work. This book should be compulsory reading for anybody working or interested in the fields of behavioral and neural genetics.

Understanding Autism. From Basic Neuroscience to Treatment
S. O. Moldin and J. L. R. Rubenstein (eds)

CRC Press, 2006. $159.95, xvi + 526 pp. ISBN 0-8493-2732-6

This is a very-well conceived book, compiling much of our current knowledge of this enigmatic disorder. Although strictly speaking not a hereditary disorder, autism has a strong genetic component and the book therefore opens with several chapters reviewing the current state of the hunt for the underlying genes. Through chapters discussing the neurobiology of related disorders, we arrive at reviews of what is known of the underlying neurophysiology and neuroanatomy of autism. The book is completed by chapters on current treatment strategies and, of course, a chapter on possible animal models is also presented.

Transgenic and Knockout Models of Neuropsychiatric Disorders
G. S. Fisch and J. Flint (eds)

Humana Press, 2006. $145, xii + 296 pp. ISBN 1-58829-507-9

This book is a rather eclectic collection of 13 excellent chapters but, contrary to the hope expressed in the preface, it is way too uneven to serve in the classroom. For instance, there are two chapters dealing with the possible use of mouse models in the study of speech and language disorders. Many disorders with effects on cognition or behavior are either not mentioned or hidden in a chapter on mouse models of mental retardation (such as Rett and Fragile X Syndrome). Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is treated in a (very readable) chapter on anxiety (which is covered also in part of another chapter). I guess it can be argued that AD is a neurological and not a psychiatric disorder, but then why is spinocerebellar ataxia type 1 covered in a separate (and otherwise excellent) chapter? Yet another chapter gives an excellent overview of models of psychosis, but contrary to what is suggested by the book title, does not cover many genetic models. This book could have benefited from some more stringent editing and unfortunately is an example that the total can be less than the sum of the parts.