Evolutionary Biology and human mental health
Evolutionary biology is the foundation of modern life sciences. However, it’s only recently that evolutionary thinking and tools have been applied to study human health and disease—such as mental illness. Humans experience a tremendous range of mental illnesses. How can evolutionary biology be used to help treat them?
The key is to first understand that risk of developing a mental disorder, and the various forms of mental illness themselves, have evolved over time, just like other human traits. Because of this, the genes and environments that generate risks for mental disorders can be understood in terms of evolved adaptations that have become dysregulated.
As Canada Research Chair in Evolutionary Genetics and Psychology, Dr. Bernard Crespi is studying the evolved functions of genes that affect the risk of developing mental illnesses in typical populations. These studies will provide new insights into how the human brain works as an adaptation, and how and why mental disorders arise. Crespi and his research group are also analyzing the “genes that make us human” to determine their roles in human cognition and mental illness risks. The studies being conducted by Crespi and his research group are centred around testing their novel and ground-breaking theory on how the human brain has evolved and now functions.
Crespi's research will help advance our knowledge of human genetics, psychology and neurobiology. It will also help medical professionals understand, diagnose and treat mental illnesses, especially in individualized ways.