A number of neurodegenerative diseases principally affect humans as they age and are characterized by the loss of specific groups of neurons in different brain regions. Although these disorders are generally sporadic, it is now clear that many of them have a substantial genetic component. As genes are the raw material with which evolution works, we might benefit from understanding these genes in an evolutionary framework. Here, I will discuss how we can understand whether evolution has shaped genes involved in neurodegeneration and the implications for practical issues, such as our choice of model systems for studying these diseases, and more theoretical concerns, such as the level of selection against these phenotypes.
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