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Toward the genetic basis of cooperation

Objective

Cooperation has been described as an enduring evolutionary conundrum. Our primary objective is to discover genetic influences on distinct aspects of cooperative behaviour that have been conserved through evolution. We aim to distinguish the strategic (economic) from the social dimension of the behaviour within dyadic interactions. We further aim to identify the genetic substrates of these dimensions.

Our internationally reputed group of experts will study cooperation in diverse species (humans, primates, rats, mice, crows and titmice) from a variety of perspectives. The operational definition of cooperation has recently been called into question. The use of simple game-theoretical models to study cooperative behaviour has been criticised on the grounds that it is unduly artificial and restrictive. We will devise novel empirical methodologies, which take greater account of the role of communication between conspecifics than traditional game-theoretic models.

We propose a set of empirical studies, guided by two overarching theoretical imperatives. First, the notion of cooperation is reassessed. Second, an alternative model is derived, incorporating unique aspects of human cooperative behaviour. Genetic influences on cooperative behaviour may have been conserved through evolution.

We aim to find genes that influence strategic and communicative (social-reward) elements of cooperation, initially in humans. A novel internet-based testing strategy will identify subjects for genomic linkage studies. Quantitative trait loci will be discovered using identity-by-descent allele sharing between sibships, conditional on observed trait values. Candidate genes will then be identified. The hypothesis that syntenic gene function is conserved in other species will be tested.

Call for proposal

FP6-2004-NEST-PATH
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Funding Scheme

STREP - Specific Targeted Research Project

Coordinator

UNIVERSITY COLLEGE LONDON
Address
Gower Street
London
United Kingdom

Participants (8)

CENTRE NATIONAL DE LA RECHERCHE SCIENTIFIQUE
France
Address
Rue Michel-ange 3
Paris
EOTVOS LORAND UNIVERSITY
Hungary
Address
Egyetem Ter 1-3
Budapest
NATIONAL UNIVERSITY OF IRELAND, DUBLIN
Ireland
Address
Belfield
Dublin 4
PIRKANMAAN SAIRAANHOITOPIIRIN KUNTAYHTYMA (PIRKANMAA HOSPITAL DISTRICT , TAMPERE UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL)
Finland
Address
Teiskontie 35
Tampere
STATE UNIVERSITY OF GRONINGEN
Netherlands
Address
Broerstraat 5
Groningen
THE UNIVERSITY OF BATH
United Kingdom
Address
Claverton Down
Bath
UNIVERSITY OF EXETER
United Kingdom
Address
Northcote House, Queens Drive
Exeter
UNIVERSITY OF SZEGED
Hungary
Address
Dugonics Ter 13
Szeged