Downey, Dr. Greg, Macquarie U., Ryde, Australia - To aid research and writing on 'Homo Athleticus: Comparative Sports and Human Physiological Diversity' - Richard Carley Hunt Fellowship
DR. GREG DOWNEY, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia, was awarded a Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowship in 2006 to aid research and writing on 'The Athletic Animal: Sports and Human Potential.' The book uses a wide range of research on athletes from across many cultures - from Kenyan runners and Korean pearl divers, to no-holds-barred fighters in Brazil and Korean archers - to highlight how humans drive their own physiological and neurological development into distinctive configurations through training regimens, especially running, climbing, throwing, fighting, hitting, and other sports-related activities. Although athletes are extreme examples, they illustrate clearly how culture, patterns of behaviour, training, and body ideals have tangible effects on our bodies and brains. Based in dynamic systems theory and reappraisals of phenotypic plasticity, the book attempts to demonstrate a problem-driven synthesis of findings from both biological and cultural anthropology. Growing out of the research related to this book were also several articles, including one that explored how coaching in the Afro-Brazilian martial art and dance, capoeira, facilitates novices' acquisition of their own idiosyncratic movement techniques, and another on the relation of the 'mirror neuron' system in the human brain to imitative learning in skill acquisition.
Downey, Greg. 2008. Scaffolding Imitation in Capoeira: Physical Education and Enculturation in an Afro-Brazilian Art. American Anthropologist 110(2):204-213
Downey, Greg. 2010. 'Practice without Theory': A Neuroanthropological Perspective on Embodied Learning. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (N.S.):S22-S40.
Gildner, Theresa E., U. of Oregon, Eugene, OR - To aid research on 'Life History Tradeoffs Between Testosterone and Immune Function: Testing the Immunocompetence Handicap Hypothesis,' supervised by Dr. J.Josh Snodgrass
Preliminary abstract: This research uses a biocultural approach and anthropological methods to test predicted life history tradeoffs between reproductive effort (measured using testosterone levels and phenotypic masculine traits) and immune function among the Shuar of Ecuador, a forager-horticulturalist group characterized by high parasite load. Human Life History Theory aims to understand how natural selection produces age and context-dependent tradeoffs in resource allocation to different biological functions, and the physiological bases of these allocations and their outcomes. Still, predicted energetic tradeoffs between mating effort and immune function remains poorly tested among contemporary human populations. Debate remains, for example, about the degree to which intra- versus inter-sexual selection have shaped tradeoffs between immunocompetence and the development and maintenance of secondary sexual characteristics (e.g., through the effects of sex hormones like testosterone). Furthermore, to date, no study has examined the relationship between testosterone and immune function in a natural fertility, high pathogen environment (like the Shuar) reflecting conditions more similar to past human populations under which these hypothesized tradeoffs evolved. This project is the first population-based study to test if there is a direct relationship between testosterone profile and parasite load among an indigenous population. The results of this study will provide insights useful for assessing the validity of hypotheses dependent on these data, such as the hypothesis that inter-sexual selection produced female assessment and preference for testosterone-linked masculine traits as an honest signal of male quality because of the immunosuppressant effects of testosterone.
Kuzawa, Dr. Christopher, Northwestern U., Evanston, IL - To aid research on 'Developmental Plasticity of Male Reproductive Ecology and Life History'
DR. CHRISTOPHER KUZAWA, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, received funding in December 2005 to aid research on 'Developmental Plasticity of Male Reproductive Ecology and Life History.' Dr. Kuzawa and an international team from Northwestern University, the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill), and the University of San Carlos (the Philippines), investigated whether fetal and infant nutrition and growth influence male reproductive biology (morning and evening salivary testosterone; luteinizing hormone measured in blood samples). They hypothesized that birth weight or length (measures of prenatal nutrition) and/or growth rate or diarrheal morbidity during infancy (postnatal nutrition) would predict adult testosterone levels. Participants included roughly 900 young adults in a long-term study of health in the Philippines. In this population, males born tall and skinny had highest T levels as adults. During infancy, how often an individual experienced the nutritional-stress of diarrhea predicted future T levels: the more nutritional stress early in life, the lower the production of T in adulthood. Similarly, weight gain during infancy, an indirect measure of nutritional sufficiency, was a strong positive predictor of adult T levels. These responses likely involve changes in regulation by the brain and also in testicular development. This study is significant as it is among the first to demonstrate how early life nutrition can have a lasting influence on the reproductive ecology of the adult male.
Oyhenart, Dr. Evelia Edith, U. Nacional de La Plata, Buenos Aires, Argentina - To aid 'Tenth Meeting of the Latin American Association of Biological Anthropology,' 2008, Buenos Aires, in collaboration with Dr. Hector M. Pucciarelli
'Tenth Meeting of the Latin American Association of Biological Anthropology'
October 20-23, 2008, Universidad Nacional de la Plata, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Organizers: Evelia E. Oyhenart (U. Nacional de La Plata) and Hector M. Pucciarelli (Museo de la Plata, Buenos Aires)
More that 350 students and professionals from all over Latin America attended the Tenth Meeting of the Latin American Association of Biological Anthropology. The conference's goal was to bring distinguished Latin American scholars from the field of biological anthropology field, to a collegial environment where students and professional could meet and establish connections to promote future collaborative research. Topics of discussion included 'Human Growth in Nutritional, Epidemiological, and Demographical Transition' and 'New Research on the Peopling of the Americas.' Also a panel of experts from various fields discussed the different ways genetic data were being merged with physical anthropology, archaeology, linguistics, and other disciplines to help build a clearer picture of the human past.
Vento, Melanie, Northwestern U., Evanston, IL - To aid research on 'Evolutionary Perspectives on the Emergence of Chronic Metabolic Diseases in an Amazonian Bolivian Population,' supervised by Dr. William R. Leonard
MELANIE VENTO, then a student at Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, was awarded funding in May 2008 to aid research on 'Evolutionary Perspectives on the Emergence of Chronic Metabolic Diseases in an Amazonian Bolivian Population,' supervised by Dr. William R. Leonard. This research among the Tsimane' builds on recent findings to shed light on why transitional populations may experience greater risk of obesity and chronic disease under conditions of rapid social change. The recent finding that inflammation -- an immune process stimulated by both infection and obesity -- is integral to cardiovascular disease (CVD) suggests that individuals in transitional populations (experiencing both pathogenic physical environments and weight gain) will face a double burden of harmful inflammatory stimuli, placing them at greater risk for CVD. Furthermore, for developing populations, the joint effects of under-nutrition and high infectious disease load in childhood may contribute to both small body size and depressed metabolic rates leaving adults particularly at risk for the development of obesity and associated chronic disorders when exposed to a more urbanized diet and lifestyle. This study integrates these perspectives to test a novel model for the role of population adaptation in the rise of chronic disease under conditions of social change. Adopting the developmental origins of health and disease framework, which recognizes the importance of early life adaptive physiological changes to a predicted future environment, the research investigates the roles that diet, activity, metabolism, and inflammation play in chronic disease risk when increased market exposure leads to shifts in nutritional status across the life course. More specifically, the study examines: 1) how greater market integration is associated with adult weight gain and chronic disease risk; 2) the role of adiposity, infection, and pathogenicity on inflammation (C-reactive protein levels); and 3) whether the combined influence of poor early nutritional environments (indicated by leg length), low metabolism and small size place Tsimane' at greater risk for obesity and CVD in adulthood.
Dufour, Dr. Darna L., U. of Colorado, Boulder, CO - To aid research on 'Work Efficiency in Lactating Women'
DR. DARNA L. DUFOUR, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, was awarded a grant in July 2004 to aid research on 'Work Efficiency in Lactating Women.' Lactation is the most costly phase of reproduction for human females and can increase a women's energy needs by 30 percent. Women can potentially meet this increase in energy needs by increasing their food energy intake, decreasing their physical activity and/or utilizing their body fat stores. This study examined a fourth way women can potentially meet their increased energy needs in lactation, that is by an increase in work (metabolic) efficiency in exercise. A sample of exclusively breastfeeding women was recruited and their work efficiency in exercise measured at peak lactation (3-4 months postpartum) and then again after weaning. Work efficiency in exercise was measured as delta efficiency (the ratio of work accomplished to energy needed to accomplish that work) using a submaximal exercise test on a cycle ergometer. The results demonstrated that delta efficiency is significantly higher at peak lactation than after weaning. Further, delta efficiency at peak lactation was significantly higher than in a control sample of non-pregnant, non-lactating women. These findings suggest that in addition to increased food energy intake, decreased physical activity and the utilization of fat stores, women can compensate for the extra energy demands of lactation through increases in work efficiency.
Gray, Dr. Peter Bard, U. of Nevada, Las Vegas, NV - To aid research on 'Fathers in Jamaica: Longitudinal Changes, Biological and Stepparenting, and Testosterone'
DR. PETER B. GRAY, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Nevada, was awarded funding in April 2012 to aid research on 'Fathers in Jamaica: Longitudinal Changes, Biological and Stepparenting, and Testosterone.' What are the impacts of fatherhood on Jamaican men? The project addresses this wider question in several ways. Fathers of children aged approximately 18-24 months were asked about their paternal attitudes, relationship dynamics, sexual function, and health, enabling testing for effects of fatherhood on such outcomes as relationship quality and depression. The potential moderating effects of socioeconomic status on these changes are also addressed, since the variable resources available to men may also influence the quality of their partnerships and availability to meet paternal expectations. In a context of variable male parental involvement and many families with mixed parentage, paternal outcomes of biological and stepfathers are compared. Existing cross-cultural studies suggests that biological fathers tend to be more invested in their children, a proposition also tested here. Last, the project tests the hypothesis that biological fathers have lower testosterone levels than stepfathers. Altogether, findings from this study enhance an understanding of the changes fathers of young children undergo; the different experiences of biological and stepfathers; and one of the possible physiological mechanisms differentiating the experiences of biological and stepfathers. Since these areas are of interest and relevance not just in Jamaica, this project contributes to wider discussions of fatherhood.
Lee, Sarah E., U. of Georgia, Athens, GA - To aid research on 'Nutritional and Health Consequences of Children's Self-Provisioning Activity in Xalapa, Mexico,' supervised by Dr. Alexandra A. Brewis
SARAH E. LEE, then a student at the University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, received funding in September 2003 to aid research on 'Nutritional and Health Consequences of Children's Self-Provisioning Activity in Xalapa, Mexico,' supervised by Dr. Alexandra A. Brewis. This dissertation explores how children's own provisioning activities might influence their well-being under conditions of extreme urban poverty. The immediate purpose of this study was to determine whether self-provisioning children had a measurably different nutrition and health status than children living under the same circumstances who do not engage in provisioning activities (such as working, begging or foraging for food). This dissertation research was conducted in ten neighborhoods in the shantytowns surrounding the city of Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico from October 2003 until December 2004. The researcher collected a sample size of 95 children between the ages of 8 and 12 who lived with their families. Six different data sets were collected, including 95 household interviews, 285 separate interviews concerning children's time allocation, diet, and illness. The researcher conducted 1425 hours of observation (fifteen hours per child), which provides very rich and accurate data concerning the time allocation and dietary habits of provisioning and non-provisioning children. On-going analysis indicates that the data will support the research question. There does seem to be an age and gender dimension in provisioning actives. Children shared their resources with their siblings, which is a benefit to the siblings, but also shared resources within peer groups. Children who engage in provisioning activities do seem at least marginally healthier, and some are taller than their counterparts who do not engage in provisioning activities. It is likely that the final analysis will show that children who work, beg, or forage for food, will have benefited from their activities.
Vitzthum, Dr. Virginia Judith, State U. of New York, Binghamton, NY - To aid research on 'Testing Hypotheses of the Dietary Determinants of Ovarian Hormones: A Comparative Study of Three Populations'
DR. VIRGINIA J. VITZTHUM, Institute of Primary and Preventative Health Care, Binghamton University, Binghamton, New York, was awarded a grant in May 2006 to aid research on 'Testing Hypotheses of the Dietary Determinants of Ovarian Hormones: A Comparative Study of Three Populations.' This research is part of a larger project to elucidate the ecological, behavioral, and ontogenetic determinants of variation in women's reproductive functioning. This phase of the project evaluated the relative importance of total caloric intake versus dietary fat consumption in determining ovarian steroid variation by comparing hormone levels in nomadic-herding Mongolian women (high fat/low calorie diets) with those in previously collected samples of agropastoral Bolivian women (low fat/low calorie diets) and Chicago women (high fat/high calorie diets). Daily biological samples spanning a menstrual cycle and data on covariates were collected from 40 nomadic Mongolian women during July through September 2006. Assays were conducted in collaboration with Dr. Tobias Deschner at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. Initial analyses suggest that ovarian steroid levels are at least as high as those of U.S. women, suggesting that dietary fat may be the more important factor. In addition to increasing current understanding of the sources of variation in ovarian functioning, this finding suggests that the modulation of reproductive functioning during a woman's lifespan may be sensitive to variation in dietary fat intake. Ongoing research includes the collection of a comparative sample of German women and planned research includes genetic analyses to ascertain the potential contribution of genotypic variation to hormonal variation.