Do Cats Control My Mind?
New neuroscience research says that Toxo—the cysts in our brains from cats—can improve our self-control. For the 30 percent of people who have this infection, it’s about more than promiscuity, schizophrenia, and car crashes.
“It is definitely not smart to intentionally infect yourself. I’ve already had people ask.” A third of the world has been infected, though. Tiny cysts nested in one’s brain and muscles attest. The parasite Toxoplasmosis gondii comes into us by undercooked meat, well-intentioned placentas, gardening soil, or, most infamously, cats. It is the reason that pregnant women are not supposed to empty litter boxes. “If you’re young and healthy and have it already, it might provide some benefit, as we saw in our research,” Ann-Kathrin Stock, a cognitive neurophysiology researcher at the University of Dresden in Germany, told me. “But the adverse effects are potentially huge. If you ever really get sick it might be what kills you.” Many people have what feels like a cold after they get infected with Toxo. The symptoms pass, and the person feels fine. But the Toxo lives on inside them, hidden dormant in little cysts, kept in check by constant pressure from the person’s immune system. If our immune systems become weak, because of a serious illness later in life, though, the Toxo can break out and attack organs like the brain or retina. “You might lose your ability to see, or lose your cognitive faculties,” Stock said. Neuroscientist Joraslov Flegr, an eminent voice in Toxo research, told The Atlantic last year that, “Toxoplasma might even kill as many people as malaria, or at least a million people a year.” What does it mean to learn that it can also have beneficial effects? (via Do Cats Control My Mind? - James Hamblin - The Atlantic)