Controlling the false discovery rate in behavior genetics research

Yoav Benjamini*, Dan Drai, Greg Elmer, Neri Kafkafi, Ilan Golani

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2937 Scopus citations


The screening of many endpoints when comparing groups from different strains, searching for some statistically significant difference, raises the multiple comparisons problem in its most severe form. Using the 0.05 level to decide which of the many endpoints' differences are statistically significant, the probability of finding a difference to be significant even though it is not real increases far beyond 0.05. The traditional approach to this problem has been to control the probability of making even one such error - the Bonferroni procedure being the most familiar procedure achieving such control. However, the incurred loss of power stemming from such control led many practitioners to neglect multiplicity control altogether. The False Discovery Rate (FDR), suggested by Benjamini and Hochberg [J Royal Stat Soc Ser B 57 (1995) 289], is a new, different, and compromising point of view regarding the error in multiple comparisons. The FDR is the expected proportion of false discoveries among the discoveries, and controlling the FDR goes a long way towards controlling the increased error from multiplicity while losing less in the ability to discover real differences. In this paper we demonstrate the problem in two studies: the study of exploratory behavior [Behav Brain Res (2001)], and the study of the interaction of strain differences with laboratory environment [Science 284 (1999) 1670]. We explain the FDR criterion, and present two simple procedures that control the FDR. We demonstrate their increased power when used in the above two studies.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)279-284
Number of pages6
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 8 Nov 2001
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study is part of the project ‘Phenotyping mouse exploratory behavior’ supported by NIH 1 R01 NS40234-01.


  • Bonferroni procedure
  • Exploratory behavior in mice
  • FDR
  • Multiple comparisons


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