Letter/Observer Forum

The Mothers Were Rats

To the editor:

It was more than a little surprising to read Wray Herbert’s review of Sharon Begley’s book, Train Your Mind Change Your Brain, in the APS Observer (March, 2007, p. 15) claiming that Michael Meaney’s (fascinating, groundbreaking and outstanding) work “has proven that the way mothers treat their offspring determines which genes in the children’s brains are turned on, making them shy or outgoing” — without it ever being made clear, especially in the context of all the other human work being summarized (as inaccurately?), that Meaney’s “mothers” were rats! It is one thing to read such apparent over generalizations of animal models to humans (in the absence of human data) in the popular press, but it really is inexcusable in the official organ of the APS.

Jay Belsky
Institute for the Study of Children, Families and Social Issues
Birkbeck College, University of London

Editor’s Response: The review should have specified that Meaney’s work was done with animals. Begley’s book does.

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