Evolutionary Medicine Month at UCLA 2014
Peter T. Ellison, PhD, John Cowles Professor of Anthropology and Human Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University
The human life course, like that of any animal, is marked by important transitions in state, such as birth, puberty, and the resumption of postpartum fecundity. Evolutionary theory and comparative biology predict that these transitions will be marked by shifts in metabolic energy allocation. The mechanisms of these transitions in humans indeed involve important interactions between the neuroendocrine control of energy metabolism and reproduction that display parallelisms and evidence of phylogenetic similarity. An evolutionary approach to understanding the neuroendocrinology of these transitions not only reveals commonalities of underlying processes, but can illuminate associated disease risks as well.