Annals of Mind Control

Via Slashdot comes news that Mind Control Parasites in Half of All Humans:

According to a Yahoo News story, half of the world’s human population is infected with Toxoplasma, a parasite shown to alter the brain function of rats, inducing them into behavior that benefits the parasite but is suicidal for the rat. So what affect does it have on humans?

The research is by Dr. E. Fuller Torrey — a name of some controversy for his earlier research in schizophrenia — so it’s not surprising that he suggests there may be a link to it. (According to the Wikipedia article linked above, Dr. Torrey “told The New York Daily News his wife thinks he is going to be assassinated by cat lovers.”)

Myself, I’d like to see a whole set of correlations of Toxoplasma infection to various behaviors, such as spending, eating, and — why not? — voting…

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4 Responses to Annals of Mind Control

  1. wcw says:

    There are studies. The good ones seem to indicate that rats should remain worried, humans not so much.

    Cf http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=pubmed&dopt=Abstract&list_uids=16014166
    “On average, children aged three to four years with congenital toxoplasmosis..had risks of abnormal development and behavior similar to uninfected children.”

    There’s a Czech scientist who has a real bug (cough) about it. Even if you don’t discount his measurements (I’m not able to judge) or his results (after all, one- to two-thirds of the population is infected), you shouldn’t worry. Novelty-seeking scores, for example, drop from a 2-standard-deviation range of 8-to-32 down to.. 6-to-29. Yikes! Anyhow, see http://www.natur.cuni.cz/~flegr/publpar.htm

    When other scientists start replicating his results, I might start to pay more attention. ‘Til then, I’m focusing on how weird the lancet fluke can make ants behave.

  2. J i O says:

    For more than you ever really wanted to know about parasites Parasite Rex by Carl Zimmer is a must read. Here’s an example of a brain surgeon wasp: http://loom.corante.com/archives/2006/02/02/the_wisdom_of_parasites.php

    Carl regularly posts here: http://loom.corante.com/ From the site: “Carl Zimmer is the author of several popular science books and writes frequently for the New York Times, as well as for magazines including The New York Times Magazine, National Geographic, Science, Newsweek, Popular Science, and Discover, where he is a contributing editor.”

  3. Shhhhhh don’t let red blooded Americans know about your ideas about toxoplasmosis and voting. The vast majority of French people have toxoplasmosis. In fact the French state actually has injected toxoplasmosis into someone whith whome I am acquainted who will remain nameless. Most of them catch it from the cheese they eat.

    I am making none of this up. Honest.

  4. Ragout says:

    There are two studies that find that toxoplasmosis is associated with higher rates of auto accidents, presumably because it slows reaction time. “If our data are true then about a million people a year die just because they are infected with toxoplasma,” Flegr says.
    Yereli et al
    Flegr et al

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