2019 Evolutionary Medicine Month – Grand Rounds Series

UCLA Department of Medicine Grand Rounds presents

Daniel M.T. Fessler, PhD
Department of Anthropology and Center for Behavior, Evolution, and Culture, UCLA

“Looking Afresh at Diverse Aspects of Health and Disease Using Darwin’s Lens: A smorgasbord of evolutionary projects having medical implications”

Wednesday, February 27, 2019 • 8:30 – 9:30 am
Tamkin Auditorium (B-Level, Room 130)
Ronald Reagan – UCLA Medical Center

Evolutionary theory provides a powerful tool with which to both explain otherwise puzzling phenomena and problematize that which we take for granted. In this talk I will (attempt to) discuss an assortment of research projects that directly or indirectly concern human health and disease, many of which have potential ramifications for clinical practice. Exploring ingestive behavior through a Darwinian lens sheds light on apparently paradoxical impulsivity in anorexia nervosa; raises questions regarding the ethical treatment of hunger strikers; suggests one explanation for the plasticity of salt preferences; potentially links infant mouthing behavior to development of the immune system; and reveals an expectable cyclical nadir in female caloric intake. Investigating the evolutionary stability of fever as a host defense both underscores the risks of antipyretics and highlights the multiplex dangers of nosocomial superinfections. Locating human behaviors in the panoply of mammalian defenses against ectoparasites organizes understanding of conditions as diverse as trichotillomania and trypophobia, and makes sense of circadian rhythms in pruritus. Examining evolved informational biases illuminates the salience of false positives in clinical testing and the virulence of erroneous folk medical beliefs, while exploring the evolutionary context of bereavement has important implications for end-of-life care. I will close by discussing how evolutionary affective science can potentially enhance humanistic care and reduce clinician burnout.