February 22 2012

8:30 Tamkin Aud., RRUMC

Bernard Crespi
Simon Fraser University, Professor of Evolutionary Biology

Where Darwin Meets Freud: Molecular Genetics, Evolution, and Psychopathology of the Social Brain


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

Abstract: Human evolution is characterized by enlargement and elaboration of the 'social brain', the set of cognitive-affective phenotypes that subserve the detection, processing and deployment of social information in the pursuit of goals. Autistic-spectrum conditions and psychotic-affective spectrum conditions (mainly schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression) represent two major suites of disorders of human cognition, affect, and behavior that involve altered development and function of the human social brain. I describe the hypothesis that autism-spectrum conditions and psychotic-affective spectrum conditions represent diametric (opposite) disorders, mediated by under-development versus dysregulated ‘hyper-development' of core social-brain phenotypes. This hypothesis is then evaluated using (1) data from copy-number variants and genomic-imprinting syndromes, each of which involves large-scale gene-expression alterations in two opposite directions, (2) data on a large set of phenotypic traits related to human social brain development and function, including aspects of gaze, agency, social cognition, local versus global processing, language, neuroanatomy, and behavior, to determine if the traits exhibit diametric patterns in autism versus psychotic-affective conditions, and (3) data on autism-spectrum and psychotic-affective spectrum traits from a large non-clinical population, to determine if these traits form an axis of social cognition with normality at its center. The hypothesis that autism and psychotic-affective conditions represent diametric disorders of the social brain has direct implications for analyzing and understanding the genomic causes, neurodevelopmental bases, and optimal treatment of these conditions, as well as determining how evolved human social-brain adaptations are related to maladaptations manifest as psychiatric disorders.

Biography: Dr. Bernie Crespi attended the University of Chicago (undergraduate) and the University of Michigan (PhD), followed by Post-Doctoral Fellowships at Oxford, the University of New South Wales, and Cornell University. He took up an Assistant Professor position at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, B. C., Canada in 1992, where he has been studying social evolution, genomic conflicts, the evolution of sexual vs. asexual reproduction, and speciation. His most recent work focuses on applications of evolutionary medicine to human psychiatric conditions, especially autism and schizophrenia. Bernie has been awarded the Theodosius Dobzhansky Prize and the E. O. Wilson Award, and was recently inducted into the Royal Society of Canada.

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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