Mom Always Loved You Best

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BOSTON, Mass.: Mice are genetically programmed to take care of their young, according to a study reported in the journal Cell. When scientists at the Children's Hospital in Boston bred a mutant mouse lacking the so-called motherhood gene, the mother ignored her babies after delivering them, preferring to curl up by herself in the corner of the cage. Without the mother to keep them warm, the babies soon died. The gene, known as fosB, is probably activated by the sight and smell of baby mice and sets off a host of other chemical and behavioral reactions. Mouse mothers with the fosB gene will hunker down over their young within a minute or two to keep the hairless little mice warm and fed. Humans have the fosB gene too, but it is far to early to tell what effect it has on mothering behavior. "Genetics does have an influence on human behavior," says TIME's Christine Gorman. "But a great deal of what we do is a matter of free will and voluntary control. Mice are far more hardwired than humans. More of their behavior is instinct, predetermined by genetics. Even though humans might have the same gene, it might not have the same function at all." -->