Associate Professor of Anthropology
Testosterone and male life history: evidence for developmental adaptation in the Philippines
Friday, October 9, 2009
Lecture Hall 2, 4:00 PM
It has been hypothesized that developmental responses to prenatal and early postnatal nutrition, hormones, and other factors may allow the organism to adaptively adjust its biological priorities in anticipation of conditions likely to be experienced in the future. This hypothesis gains indirect support based upon studies demonstrating high rates of cardiovascular and related diseases among individuals who experienced poor early life nutrition. In this talk, Chris Kuzawa will discuss new research in the Philippines that is evaluating developmental adaptation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis (HPG), which has broad effects on male reproductive strategy through its role in testosterone production. Past work has shown that the HPG axis experiences a period of high activity, characterized by production of testosterone at near-adult levels, that begins in mid-gestation and continues into the early postnatal period. This is believed to constitute a critical period when high testosterone influences the central nervous system and a range of target tissues, with effects on adult behaviors and traits related to reproductive strategy. Using 26 years of longitudinal data, Kuzawa and his collaborators are finding evidence that infancy stressors (slow growth rate, infectious morbidity) experienced during this age of rapid HPG development predict changes in the regulation of testosterone production measured in early adulthood, providing some of the first evidence for environmentally-induced biological programming of adult testicular function in human males. The implications of these findings for models of male life history and developmental adaptation will be critically discussed.
Chris Kuzawa is a biological anthropologist with interests in developmental biology, evolutionary theory, and health. He is currently funded to investigate developmental influences on adult health and male reproductive ecology in the Philippines, the role of fetal nutrition in communicating maternal nutritional history across generations, and the evolution and energetics of the human brain. He received his BA in Anthropology from the University of Colorado, Boulder and went on to receive his PhD in Anthropology and MsPH in Epidemiology from Emory University. He is an Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Northwestern University, where he helped launch Cells 2 Society, a research center devoted to the study of social disparities and health.