It's quite the attention-getter when Stanford neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky says, "Get a load of this, can you believe what nature has come up with?" Turns out there is some fantastic connecting-the-dots going on concerning the parasite Toxoplasma gondii—yes, the one you catch from cat feces. A crazy-haired (yet level-headed) researcher, Jaroslav Flegr, took the leap to think that his kind of crazy may not be just in his head. The article in its entirety, unfortunately called "How Your Cat Is Making You Crazy," can be found on The Atlantic's website.
Jaroslav Flegr had a hunch that this single-celled parasite was altering his personality in very subtle ways. Sounds crazy, I know! Since parasites affect other mammals, why not humans? Then he thought that if it were affecting him, then others may be affected too. Then he started proving it with research. In a nutshell, it (subtly) makes men "more introverted, suspicious, oblivious to other people's opinions of them, and inclined to disregard the rules." Interestingly, infected women show almost opposite symptoms. They (subtly) became "more outgoing, trusting, image-conscious, and rule-abiding than uninfected women." Both genders "became less attentive." Bizarre!
Then others started doing similar research and are extending the mind-boggling finds. For example, Glenn McConkey from the University of Leeds discovered that the T. gondii parasite "has two genes that allow it to crank up production of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the host brain." What?!
Remember a while back I posted about how dopamine is the drug our brain produces that makes us want, and the opioids in our brain make us like what we get? What if a greater percentage of the population than previously suspected are, in fact, infected? If the T. gondii parasite is disconnecting the fear circuits in the brain, and simultaneously increasing our dopamine production, then those infected want more, and are afraid of less. Apply those gender-specific symptoms to a country. To a planet. Would these be the same symptoms wreaking havoc on our popular culture? What about the political culture?
Feel free to jog on over and read the article, it's pretty long. I'd love to hear what you think about this.
Thanks for reading!
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