CEM Seminar - Zaneta Thayer

The good, the bad, and the maladapted: Prenatal environmental sensitivity in the light of evolutionary novel environments

Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology
University of Colorado Denver
The good, the bad, and the maladapted: Prenatal environmental sensitivity in light of evolutionarily novel environments
Humans, like other organisms, have evolved to be sensitive to environmental exposures in early life. One system that is particularly sensitive to early environmental contexts is the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA)-axis, an evolutionarily conserved system that organizes an organism’s response to stress. Functioning of this system has been demonstrated to be sensitive to prenatal maternal stress in many organisms, including humans. These responses are generally viewed as adaptive. However humans now live in an ecological context characterized by evolutionarily novel sources and patterns of stress. In this talk I will summarize variation in offspring HPA-axis responsiveness to maternal stress in a wide range of species, including humans. Human offspring sensitivity to maternal stress will be analyzed in this context to understand the potential adaptive and maladaptive responses in offspring HPA-axis function in the context of evolutionarily novel maternal stress exposures.
Dr. Zaneta Thayer is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at University of Colorado Denver. She received her B.A. from Dartmouth College and her PhD from Northwestern University. Her research focuses on trying to understand how early life environments influence later life health.