February 15 2012

8:30 Tamkin Aud., RRUMC

Randolph M. Nesse
University of Michigan, Director, Evolution and HUman Adaptation Program and Professor of Psychiatry

Medicine without Evolution is like Engineering without Physics


Evolutionary Medicine Month at UCLA
Tamkin Auditorium (B-Level of Reagan-UCLA Medical Center)
8:30 – 9:30 A.M.

Abstract: Darwinian medicine is the enterprise of using the principles of evolutionary biology to address the problems of medicine. This lecture begins with data showing evolutionary biology nearly absent from medical curricula. Even the fundamental distinction between evolutionary and proximate questions remains poorly understood in medicine. Asking evolutionary questions is crucial to understand why natural selection has left the body so vulnerable to so many diseases. The possible explanations fit nicely into six categories:
• The mismatch between our bodies and novel aspects of the modern environment gives rise to much chronic disease.
• Pathogens evolve so quickly that we cannot keep up Constraints such as path dependence limit the perfection of traits shaped by selection.
• Tradeoffs leave every trait in the body imperfect and vulnerable to disease Selection shapes organisms for maximal reproductive success, even if that compromises individual health and longevity.
• Defenses such as pain, cough and fever are not diseases, but responses shaped by selection and regulated so they are expressed when they are useful.
• The regulation of defensive responses like pain fever and anxiety is addressed in detail.
• Following the principles of signal detection theory, normal defense regulation systems are shaped by selection to express many painful defenses in situations where they are not actually necessary. This has major implications for everyday medical practice, and research.

The overall conclusion is that evolutionary biology is an invaluable basic science for medicine, one whose applications are just now being explored.

Biography: Randolph M. Nesse, M.D., is Professor of Psychiatry, Professor of Psychology, and Research Professor at the University of Michigan, where he directs the Evolution and Human Adaptation Program. His research on neuroendocrine aspects of anxiety provides a foundation for his current work on how selection shapes mechanisms that regulate defenses such as pain, fever, anxiety, and low mood, and medical implications. A founder of the field of evolutionary medicine, he is devoted to helping doctors and researchers find new applications of evolutionary biology in medicine and public health.

For support, we thank the UCLA Clinical and Translational Science Institute (NIH Grant #1UL1RR033176), Participant Media, and the UCLA Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and the UCLA Department of Medicine.

For additional information, please contact Susan Kwan,











































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































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