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Contribution of ethology to evolutionary medicine


Bender, Nicole (2021). Contribution of ethology to evolutionary medicine. Ethology, 127(10):821-826.

Abstract

Evolutionary medicine is a concept that arose mainly in the 1990s, and which applies evolutionary biological principles to human medical fields. For instance, evolutionary medicine proposed that there is an evolutionary mismatch between the human anatomy and physiology and novel, man-made environments, leading to the so-called diseases of civilization. Constraints exist on the process of natural selection, and evolutionary trade-offs can prevent traits from being optimal, leaving humans with traits that at first sight seem maladaptive, such as the very narrow birth canal of humans. More generally, certain traits can increase reproduction at the cost of health and longevity. Other traits, such as pain and fever, are related to protective physiological defences, and not diseases. Some medical topics have biological roots in the field of ethology, particularly human ethology, such as the behavioural aspects of psychiatry and addiction. Compulsive overeating and binge eating show similarities to substance-linked addictions and behavioural addictions. Interactions between behaviour, stress and diseases have ancient evolutionary roots, which may lead to a mismatch to the modern human environment. A subject of high, topical interest is the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic, as the behavioural aspects of population compliance are crucial for the success in fighting the pandemic. Ethology, and evolutionary biology in general, can substantially contribute to improving the biological understanding of medical phenomena, and therefore of medical and public health interventions. This applies not only to research but also to education.

Abstract

Evolutionary medicine is a concept that arose mainly in the 1990s, and which applies evolutionary biological principles to human medical fields. For instance, evolutionary medicine proposed that there is an evolutionary mismatch between the human anatomy and physiology and novel, man-made environments, leading to the so-called diseases of civilization. Constraints exist on the process of natural selection, and evolutionary trade-offs can prevent traits from being optimal, leaving humans with traits that at first sight seem maladaptive, such as the very narrow birth canal of humans. More generally, certain traits can increase reproduction at the cost of health and longevity. Other traits, such as pain and fever, are related to protective physiological defences, and not diseases. Some medical topics have biological roots in the field of ethology, particularly human ethology, such as the behavioural aspects of psychiatry and addiction. Compulsive overeating and binge eating show similarities to substance-linked addictions and behavioural addictions. Interactions between behaviour, stress and diseases have ancient evolutionary roots, which may lead to a mismatch to the modern human environment. A subject of high, topical interest is the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic, as the behavioural aspects of population compliance are crucial for the success in fighting the pandemic. Ethology, and evolutionary biology in general, can substantially contribute to improving the biological understanding of medical phenomena, and therefore of medical and public health interventions. This applies not only to research but also to education.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, further contribution
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Institute of Evolutionary Medicine
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Scopus Subject Areas:Life Sciences > Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
Life Sciences > Animal Science and Zoology
Uncontrolled Keywords:Animal Science and Zoology, Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
Language:English
Date:1 October 2021
Deposited On:02 Feb 2022 14:29
Last Modified:26 Jun 2024 01:51
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, Inc.
ISSN:0179-1613
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1111/eth.13162
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