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New Frontiers Seminar Series (NFSS)

All faculty and students are invited to attend the next New Frontiers Seminar Series lecture. Dr. Bernard Crespi, Department of Biological Sciences, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, B. C. will speak on “Where Darwin meets Freud: Molecular Genetics, Evolution, and Psychopathology of the Social Brain”

Location:  MW170 (Social Sciences Building)

ABSTRACT: Human evolution is characterized by enlargement and elaboration of the 'social brain', the set of cognitive-affective phenotypes that subserve the detection, processing and deployment of social information in the pursuit of goals.  Autistic-spectrum conditions and psychotic-affective spectrum conditions (mainly schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression) represent two major suites of disorders of human cognition, affect, and behavior that involve altered development and function of the human social brain. I describe the hypothesis that autism-spectrum conditions and psychotic-affective spectrum conditions represent diametric opposite) disorders, mediated by under-development versus dysregulated 'hyper-development' of core social-brain phenotypes.

This hypothesis is then evaluated using (1) data from copy-number variants and genomic-imprinting syndromes, each of which involves large-scale gene-expression alterations in two opposite directions, (2) data on a large set of phenotypic traits related to human social brain development and function, including aspects of gaze, agency, social cognition, local versus global processing, language, neuroanatomy, and behavior, to determine if the traits exhibit diametric patterns in autism versus psychotic-affective conditions, (3) data on autism-spectrum and psychotic-affective spectrum traits from a large non-clinical population, to determine if these traits form an axis of social cognition with normality at its center.  The hypothesis that autism and psychotic-affective conditions represent diametric disorders of the social brain has direct implications for analyzing and understanding the genomic causes, neuro developmental bases, and optimal treatment of these conditions, as well as determining how evolved human social-brain adaptations are related to maladaptations manifest as psychiatric disorders.

This seminar is a great way to learn about exciting research that is taking place on the applications of evolutionary biology to human psychiatric conditions. The New Frontiers Seminar Series is organized by the Graduate Students' Association at Scarborough (GSAS). This talk is supported by the Office of the Vice-Principal, Research and the Department of Biological Sciences at UTSC.

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