Bernard Crespi

Canada Research Chair in Evolutionary Genetics and Psychology

Tier 1 - 2017-11-01
Simon Fraser University
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council


Research involves

Using integrated genetic, evolutionary and psychological approaches to study evolution across all levels in the hierarchy of life, from genes to brains.

Research relevance

This research will lead to deeper understanding of how the brain works, and the development of new diagnostic and therapeutic tools for alleviating mental illnesses.

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.