Monday, February 20, 2012

Microbes can control your mind...

This is pretty creepy, a common parasite in cats, Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii or Toxo for short), forces changes in the way mammals behave.  In mice and rats it makes it more likely that they will be eaten by a cat   by making the smell of cat urine attractive rather than repulsive as well as reducing the fear of open spaces.

It now appears that in humans a T. gondii infection also changes our behaviours, making males more aggressive and less aware of their surroundings. Human females become more social and trusting. The following article from the Atlantic discusses this in more detail:

How Your Cat Is Making You Crazy

Rabies is the classic "rage" like infection, in it's later stages the infection ramps up the aggression of the victim while migrating to the victims saliva glands and gums!

Near the end of the article the author discusses other parasites and viruses that have behavioural effects on humans including influenza. Influenza causes an increase in the desire of humans to be close together thus increasing the likelihood of transmission.  What is interesting is the complexity of the effect, it only occurs before the infected shows any symptoms but while they are infectious!  This same behaviour change is seen in people who get influenza vaccines even though they are not capable of transmitting the virus.

Is this the precursor of a Solanum type infection? 

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