The KLI Labs provide an experimental space for alternative formats such as dissussion platforms, practice talks, feedback rounds for manuscript drafts, reading clubs, etc. 

Event Details

Philipp Mitteroecker
KLI Colloquia
Modelling the Evolution of Schizophrenia
Philipp Mitteröcker (University of Vienna & KLI)
2024-04-18 15:00 - 2024-04-18 19:00
Organized by KLI

You are invited to a Zoom meeting.
18 April 2024 03:00 PM (CET)

Topic description / Abstract:

How has schizophrenia, a condition that significantly reduces an individual's evolutionary fitness, remained common across generations and cultures? Numerous theories about the evolution of schizophrenia have been proposed, most of which are not consistent with modern epidemiological and genetic evidence. I will briefly review this evidence and explore the cliff edge model of schizophrenia. It suggests that schizophrenia is the extreme manifestation of a polygenic trait or a combination of traits that, within a normal range of variation, confer cognitive, linguistic, and/or social advantages. Only beyond a certain threshold, these traits precipitate the onset of schizophrenia and reduce fitness. I provide the first mathematical model of this qualitative concept and show that it requires only very weak positive selection of the underlying trait(s) to explain today’s schizophrenia prevalence. This prediction, along with expectations about the effect size of schizophrenia risk alleles, are surprisingly well matched by empirical evidence. The cliff edge model predicts a dynamic change of selection of risk alleles, which explains the contradictory findings of evolutionary genetic studies.

Biographical note:

Philipp Mitteroecker is Professor at the Dept. of Evolutionary Biology at the University of Vienna and member of the Board of Directors of the Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution and Cognition Research since 2014. In 2024, he became President of the KLI. Philipp Mitteroecker is an expert in geometric morphometrics, the statistical analysis of biological form. More recently his work focuses on questions in Evolutionary Anthropology and Evolutionary Medicine.