Thayer, Zaneta Marie, Northwestern U., Evanston, IL - To aid research on 'Intergenerational Programming of Stress Reactivity: Role of Epigenetic Mechanisms,' supervised by Dr. Christopher Kuzawa
ZANETA THAYER, then a student at Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, received funding in April 2011 to aid research on 'Intergenerational Programming of Stress Reactivity: The Role of Epigenetic Mechanisms,' supervised by Dr. Christopher Kuzawa. Anthropologists have a long history of studying biological responses to environmental stress from diverse perspectives. Within our field the effects of maternal psychosocial stress on biology and health in the next generation is becoming a topic of increased interest. This research project evaluated the intergenerational effects of maternal stress experience among an ethnically and socioeconomically diverse sample of pregnant women from Auckland, New Zealand. Women who had lower socioeconomic status and who experienced ethnic discrimination had higher evening cortisol in late pregnancy and gave birth to infants with elevated cortisol reactivity and altered gene regulation (methylation) profiles. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that maternal social environment impacts maternal and offspring biology. Notably, the types of stress exposures that impacted cortisol in the present study are relatively novel from an evolutionary perspective. Thus the evolved capacity for an intergenerational transfer of information could be maladaptive in the contemporary ecology when activated in response to structural inequalities within society. Future research evaluating diverse sources of stress and a range of biological responses in offspring are necessary to clarify whether modifications in offspring biology reflect adaptation or biological impairment.
Dancause, Dr. Kelsey N., U. of Quebec, Montreal, Canada - To aid research on 'Effects of Prenatal Psychosocial Stress on Birth Outcomes in Developing Countries: Filling the Knowledge Gap Using Validated Surveys in Vanuatu'
Preliminary abstract: Psychosocial stress during pregnancy affects not only the mother, but also her child. At high levels, maternal stress hormones can cross the placenta and affect fetal development. Prenatal stress has been associated with poor birth outcomes (such as low birthweight and preterm birth) and long-term effects such as obesity. Unfortunately, nearly all studies of prenatal stress are in industrialized nations. The effects of prenatal stress seen in industrialized countries likely cannot be generalized to women experiencing not only high levels of stress during pregnancy, but also potential undernutrition and heavy infectious disease burdens that could interact with and exacerbate the effects of prenatal stress. We need more data on the effects of prenatal stress from low- and middle-income and rapidly modernizing countries. Furthermore, we need to use common and validated surveys to collect these data, to allow comparison to the existing literature from other countries. Our OBJECTIVE is to address this gap in knowledge in Vanuatu, a low-middle-income country in the South Pacific where we have conducted anthropological research on population health since 2007. We will rely on commonly used and validated surveys to measure mothers' psychosocial stress and related mental health measures during pregnancy. We will analyze relationships between maternal psychosocial stress and infants' birth outcomes, such as their birth weight and gestational age. This study will allow us to identify how the relationships between prenatal stress and birth outcomes in developing countries might differ from patterns seen in industrialized nations, and will promote more detailed studies in other developing countries.
George, Ian Douglas, U. of Missouri, Columbia, MO - To aid research on 'Mapping the Cerebrocerebellar Language Network and its Role in Human Neuroevolution,' supervised by Dr. Kristina Aldridge
IAN D. GEORGE, then a graduate student at University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri, was awarded a grant in October 2013 to aid research on 'Mapping the Cerebrocerebellar Language Network and its Role in Human Neuroevolution,' supervised by Dr. Kristina Aldridge. Language is arguably the key factor that has influenced the evolution of the human brain. Previous research on endocasts, our only direct evidence of the brains of human ancestors, has revealed a disproportionate increase in size of the cerebellum relative to the cerebrum. Recent neurological findings indicate that the cerebellum plays a role in modulating language through neural connections to the cerebrum. Our research has mapped the connectivity among the cerebellum and language areas in the cerebrum through a specialized form of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), and verified that the cerebellum is a key component of the language network in the human brain. When compared with behavioral measures of language we found significant correlations between connectivity in the language-specific cerebrocerebellar network (LSCN) and language production. This research provides critical data on how much can be known about language from the study of fossil brain endocasts by testing the assumption that brain structure, specifically in the LSCN, correlates with language ability. We are now able to test the hypothesis that these same suites of features are reliably reproduced on endocasts. This evidence is essential for making predictions about the behavior of fossil hominin ancestors from endocast data.
Klein, Laura Danielle, Harvard U., Cambridge, MA - To aid research on 'Impacts of Maternal Disease Ecology on Milk Immunofactors and Infant Immune System Development,' supervised by Dr. Katherine J. Hinde
Preliminary abstract: Mothers' milk provides crucial immunological protection to the infant during early life. However, little is known about how the immune molecules that are present in milk vary among women living in vastly different nutritional, disease, and cultural ecologies. This project will use a longitudinal study in a population of small-scale agriculturalists at the Mogielica Human Ecology Study Site in southern Poland to investigate how aspects of the local environment, including diet and disease exposure, relate to the variation in composition of immune factors in breast milk within a population. This project will also examine how variation in mothers' milk might influence infant immune system development by taking advantage of a regularly schedule vaccine that mimics a natural immune challenge.
Nelson, Dr. Robin Gair, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY - To aid research on 'Residential Context, Non-Kin Care and Child Health Outcomes in Jamaica'
DR. ROBIN G. NELSON, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York, was awarded a grant in April 2011 to aid research on 'Residential Context, Non-Kin Care and Child Health Outcomes in Jamaica.' This study explores the relationship between residential context, parental investment, and child health outcomes in Jamaica. It centers on an examination of the growth and development of children living in state-sponsored homes, and children who are living with biological family members. Ethnographic, anthropometric, and biometric data were collected from 125 children living in state-sponsored children's homes, and 119 children living with their biological family members in Manchester Parish. Follow-up data were collected from 70 of 125 children who were still living in childcare facilities. Preliminary analyses reveal statistically significant correlations between residence in a state-sponsored care setting and anthropometric health indicators. There are also statistically significant gendered differences in the health outcomes between girls and boys living in these state-sponsored homes. These findings parallel ethnographic data detailing highly variable and gendered childcare practices in these homes. Future analyses will compare anthropometric and biometric data of children living with biological kin, and that of their peers living in the children's homes. These findings aid in our understanding of the ways that variability in kin investment and care setting come to correlate to particular health outcomes. This study navigates the intersection of evolutionary theory and biocultural studies of child care practices and health outcomes.
Valeggia, Dr. Claudia Rita, U. of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA - To aid research on 'Life History Transitions among the Toba of Argentina'
DR. CLAUDIA R. VALEGGIA, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, received funding in October 2011 to aid research on 'Life History Transitions among the Toba of Argentina.' The study is part of a five-year, longitudinal project that evaluates the interaction among biocultural variables underlying key life transitions in humans. The project takes place in an indigenous population in northern Argentina. Biological and ethnographic data are collected to evaluate the somatic, developmental, cultural, and hormonal correlates of three life history transitions: weaning, puberty, and menopause. This particular study focused on the hormonal changes associated with the peri-menopausal transition and on the association between infant growth trajectories and infectious disease. Preliminary results show differences between levels of ovarian hormones, FSHB, and adiponectin between pre- and post-menopausal women. Menopausal Toba women had higher levels of FSHB and adiponectin than menopausal non-indigenous women. Toba infants with reports of sickness had slower growth trajectories than infants with no reports of sickness. Fever, GI infections, bronchitis, and flu during first nine months were negatively correlated with length velocity. Additionally, fever, cold, and flu during the first three months were negatively correlated with weight velocity. Results from this research will contribute directly to issues of evolutionary anthropology, the biodemography of aging, and clinical medicine, as they relate specifically to patterns of child growth and women's aging.
DeCaro, Jason A., Emory U., Atlanta, GA - To aid research on 'The Social Ecology of Childhood Stress: Reactivity and Family Function in North Central Georgia, U.S.A.' supervised by Dr. Carol M. Worthman
JASON A. DECARO, while a student at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, was awarded a grant in November 2001 to aid research on the social ecology of childhood stress in north-central Georgia, U.S.A., under the supervision of Dr. Carol M. Worthman. DeCaro's research was designed to evaluate whether children's reactivity (physiological response to stress or arousal) during the transition from preschool to kindergarten was related to their parents' economic security; whether the 'routinization' of family life and stability in the social ecology of the home predicted children's reactivity during this transition; and whether the stability of children's social environment and their reactivity predicted functional outcomes. Ethnographic interviews with parents in forty-five metropolitan Atlanta families focused on work, finances, economic security, time management, and school and neighborhood choices and satisfaction. Prior to and following the transition into kindergarten, DeCaro collected saliva samples from children and parents three times a day for seven days, in order to test for levels of cortisol, a hormone of physiologic arousal. He also monitored children's heart rates during a puppet-based psychobehavioral interview. Parents were asked to track on hand computers their and their children moods, contexts, and experiences for seven days. Questionnaires covered children's behavioral and somatic symptomatology and preschool educational outcomes. Preliminary analysis suggested that cardiovascular response during a mild social challenge predicted the density of parents' schedules but that mothers' and fathers' types of 'busyness' had different effects on household ecology and on children's responses to experience. The study was expected to provide insights into the cultural construction of the 'work' of the family, which profoundly affects both the actual form and the perception of family life by family members and thus what precisely is 'stressful' about it.
DeCaro, Jason A. and Carol M. Worthman. 2006 Cultural Models, Parent Behavior, and Young Child Experience in Working American Families. Parenting: Science and Practice 7(2): 177-203.
Gettler, Dr. Lee Thomas, U. of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN - To aid research and writing on 'Shaping Fatherhood: The Role of Cultural Institutions, Development, & Biological Variation in Cross-Generational Parenting Patterns' - Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowship
Preliminary abstract: In Cebu (Philippines), fathers have recently increased their involvement in childcare, i.e. contemporary fathers perform more caregiving than did their fathers. This shift might relate to political economic forces that affected labor and migration. Framed in this context, my analyses here focus on human genetic variation, testosterone (T), and multiple generations of familial caregiving and demographic data from Cebu. I will explore how neuroendocrine pathways (related to the biology of fatherhood) are shaped through both early life experiences of caregiving as well as inherited genetic traits. Based on the observation that those neuroendocrine pathways can help mediate new expressions of adult behavior, I will assess the effects of these early life experiences on men's later behavior and biology as parents. I will interlace physiology, social interactions, and political economy, to understand the niches in which behavioral patterns are maintained or shifted across generations. I will produce articles that will test: (a) how between-father genetic variation affects their T responses to fatherhood; (b) how political economic factors affect the investments of alloparental caregivers, with downstream impacts on fathers' caregiving and hormonal profiles; and (c) how the involvement of men's fathers in childcare affects their own caregiving and T responses to parenthood.
Kreager, Dr. Philip, Oxford U., Oxford, UK - To aid workshop on 'Population in the Human Sciences: Concepts, Models, Evidence,' 2011, Oxford, in collaboration with Dr. Stanley Ulijaszek
Preliminary abstract: The workshop addresses the need for review and assessment of the framework of interdisciplinary population studies. Limits to prevailing postwar paradigms like the Evolutionary Synthesis and Demographic Transition were becoming evident by the 1970s. Subsequent decades have witnessed an immense expansion of population modelling and related empirical inquiry, with new genetic developments that have reshaped evolutionary, population, and developmental biology. The rise of anthropological and historical demography, and social network analysis, have played major roles in rethinking modern and earlier population history. More recently, the emergence of sub-disciplines like biodemography and evolutionary anthropology, and growing links between evolutionary and developmental biology, indicate a growing convergence biological and social approaches to population. New modelling techniques, particularly relating to network analysis, are applied across these several fields, and at several levels of analysis. The several developments have not, however, displaced the older paradigms and the concepts and methods of population analysis on which they rested. Current developments often coexist uneasily with them. The workshop is designed to bring together researchers at the forefront of these developments, drawing on their and related work to consider current concepts and practices used to construct and analyse populations. Discussion will emphasize comparison of similarities and differences amongst models, methods and concepts; potential cross-fertilisation of research; and whether a new cohesive framework for population studies is emerging. The workshop marks the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Human Sciences Programme at Oxford, and of the symposium on population supported by Wenner-Gren that was held at that time. Proceedings of this workshop, like its predecessor, will be published.
Kreager, Philip, Bruce Winney, Stanley Ulijaszek, and Cristian Capelli (eds.) 2015. Population in the Human Sciences: Concepts, Models, Evidence. Oxford University Press: Oxford, UK.
Noback, Marlijn Lisanne, Eberhard Karls U., Tubingen, Germany - To aid research on 'Climate- and Diet-related Variation in Human Functional Cranial Components,' supervised by Dr. Katerina Harvati
MARLIJN NOBACK, then a student at Eberhard Karls University, Tubingen, Germany, was awarded a grant in April 2011 to aid research on 'Climate- and Diet-Related Variation in Human Functional Cranial Components,' supervised by Dr. Katerina Harvati. This study seeks to elucidate the physiological basis of craniofacial variation and the selective forces driving modern human cranial geographic diversity. Funding enabled the CT scanning of 45 individual crania from three different collections based in Paris, London, and Tübingen. These scans form part of a larger database of over 330 CT scans, representing populations from different climatic and dietary regimes. With the use of the software package AVIZO and a high performance laptop, 3D models of functional facial components are developed from the CT scans. Analyses are currently undertaken and include studies of variation and co-variation of the cranial components and their relation to diet and climate. This project will enhance understanding of the biological processes underlying the evolution of modern human anatomy, adaptation and geographic diversity.
Noback, Marlijn L., and Katerina Harvati. 2015. The Contribution of Subsistence to Global Human Cranial Variation. Journal of Human Evolution 80:34-50.