Mathematical Biology Seminar

Jon Wilkins
Santa Fe Institute
Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2009
3:05pm in LCB 225
Intragenomic conflict and the evolutionary origins of maladaptive behaviors

Abstract: When natural selection has its primary effect at the level of the individual organism, it is often reasonable to assume that the result is adaptation to the local environment. However, when selection acts at lower levels (e.g., the level of the gene), the resulting dynamics can produce maladaptive outcomes. Imprinted genes (which have different expression patterns depending on their parent of origin) represent an example of significant selection at a level different from the organism. I will describe what is currently known about the expression of imprinted genes in the brain, and how intragenomic conflicts over cognitive and behavioral predispositions may underlie significant behavioral maladaptations in humans and other mammals. Examples will include the surprisingly high frequencies of major psychiatric disorders (schizophrenia, bipolar, autism, major depression, etc.) as well behavioral universals often categorized as violations of economic rationality.