Monday, March 19, 2012

Cat puppetmasters?

Thanks to @wordsmithatplay for giving me a heads up about the recent article in The Atlantic, "How Your Cat is Making You Crazy."  The gist is that a previously thought (relatively) benign cat parasite that infects as much as 50% of the population might change the infected personality to be either more introverted and risk seeking in male infectees, or more outgoing and social in female infectees.  There are fascinating implications for both free agency (cat puppetmasters? so argues a tongue in cheek "cat manifesto" from the NY Times), zombies, and (perhaps?) whether sociopaths can be made, at least in part?  The story is fascinating and alarming in a very exciting way.  Under the byline "Could tiny organisms carried by house cats be creeping into our brains, causing everything from car wrecks to schizophrenia?":

  • Starting in the early 1990s, he began to suspect that a single-celled parasite in the protozoan family was subtly manipulating his personality, causing him to behave in strange, often self-destructive ways. And if it was messing with his mind, he reasoned, it was probably doing the same to others.
  • The parasite, which is excreted by cats in their feces, is called Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii or Toxo for short) and is the microbe that causes toxoplasmosis—the reason pregnant women are told to avoid cats’ litter boxes. Since the 1920s, doctors have recognized that a woman who becomes infected during pregnancy can transmit the disease to the fetus, in some cases resulting in severe brain damage or death. T. gondii is also a major threat to people with weakened immunity: in the early days of the AIDS epidemic, before good antiretroviral drugs were developed, it was to blame for the dementia that afflicted many patients at the disease’s end stage. Healthy children and adults, however, usually experience nothing worse than brief flu-like symptoms before quickly fighting off the protozoan, which thereafter lies dormant inside brain cells—or at least that’s the standard medical wisdom.
  • “There is strong psychological resistance to the possibility that human behavior can be influenced by some stupid parasite,” he says. “Nobody likes to feel like a puppet. Reviewers [of my scientific papers] may have been offended.”
  • What’s more, many experts think T. gondii may be far from the only microscopic puppeteer capable of pulling our strings. “My guess is that there are scads more examples of this going on in mammals, with parasites we’ve never even heard of,” says Sapolsky.
  • [Regarding his changed behavior]: he thought nothing of crossing the street in the middle of dense traffic, “and if cars honked at me, I didn’t jump out of the way.” He also made no effort to hide his scorn for the Communists who ruled Czechoslovakia for most of his early adulthood. “It was very risky to openly speak your mind at that time,” he says. “I was lucky I wasn’t imprisoned.” And during a research stint in eastern Turkey, when the strife-torn region frequently erupted in gunfire, he recalls being “very calm.” In contrast, he says, “my colleagues were terrified. I wondered what was wrong with myself.”
  • Flegr was especially surprised to learn, though, that the protozoan appeared to cause many sex-specific changes in personality. Compared with uninfected men, males who had the parasite were more introverted, suspicious, oblivious to other people’s opinions of them, and inclined to disregard rules. Infected women, on the other hand, presented in exactly the opposite way: they were more outgoing, trusting, image-conscious, and rule-abiding than uninfected wom

It's crazy how little we still know about human behavior and its roots.  But I guess some of our ignorance is intentional.  Who wants to admit that their identity is so ephemeral, vulnerable to a little cat parasite (just another reason that I am glad I have no fondness for animals).

33 comments:

  1. Regardless.... I still like my cat he such a sweet little killing machine.

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  2. http://www.cbc.ca/doczone/episode/age-of-anxiety.html

    Take your meds fucked up peeps!

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  3. Haha, this is useful info. I wanted to get a cat. Not anymore! haha

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  4. These so called "scientists" need to reexamine their studies on women. Clearly, they've never heard of Catwoman.

    Exhibit A:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vj97CUSbiik

    ;)

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  5. Well great. Two weeks ago, my family bought a cat, and just this morning, I cleaned his litter because I 'have a flu' (at least; I assumed I have) and can't smell anything at the moment... So this article is at least mildly distressing.

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    Replies
    1. ha ha ha bad karma for being a little jerk

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    2. Yoy have absolutely no idea what karma is, do you?

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    3. Karma = nothing

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    4. you can get instant karma in this life from being a little cunt.

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    5. I know many people that have been "good" done "good" all there lives... only to have shit happen to them. Karma as well ? lol

      You delusional idiots and your myths

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    6. Karma is nothing more then a state of mind if you ask me. If you believe in karma then you set your mind up think if something good happens something bad will happen. Then when something bad DOES happen you rule it off to be karma. But that is unreasonable because when bad stuff happens to you coincidentally your rack your brain around, "What did I do Wrong?" You may have done nothing wrong it's just reality reminding you that no force can determine if good or bad things will happen.

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    7. You guys are subscribing to the My Name is Earl brand of karma. Look up karma. It isnt what you think it is.

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    8. There is really no such thing as what we call karma.

      Cause and effect are not two different things. The effect of today will be the cause of tomorrow. There is no cause, isolated, which produces an effect; they are interrelated. There is no such thing as a law of cause and effect, which means that there is really no such thing as what we call karma. To us, karma means a result with a previous cause, but in the interval between the effect and the cause there has been time. In that time there has been a tremendous lot of change and therefore the effect is never the same. And the effect is going to produce another cause which will never be merely the result of the effect. Do not say, -I do not believe in karma- that is not the point at all. Karma means, very simply, action and the result, with its further cause. Sow a mango seed and it is bound to produce a mango tree-but the human mind is not like that. The human mind is capable of transformation within itself, immediate comprehension, which is a breaking away from the cause, always.

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    9. Still birth = Karma

      Take that Karma bitch!!!

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    10. I just love the way a discussion of cat parasites degenerates into a philosophical debate/sniping session on karma.
      Let's face facts, Anon 10:35 is right. If there was 'My Name is Earl' Karma, most of us would be seriously fucked, and not in any good way.
      I've got two cats, both strays I've picked up from the street, and if the infection makes women more trusting, outgoing and rule abiding, then I can't imagine what a bitch I'd be without it.

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    11. Why thank you Green Eyes.

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  6. Wow, they discribed me in this artical !!! Never had a cat though. Must have been that collage dare ! I'll never eat cat poopie again!!

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  7. LOL no fondness for animals

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  8. #corrections

    "Who wants to admit that THERE identity is so ephemeral, vulnerable to a little cat parasite ..."

    should be "their"

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  9. David
    Did you hear about the terrible school shooting in France?

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  10. david's on a bus to switserland....

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  11. have a nice ride and don't forget to say you're prayers

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  12. if i die b4 i break pray the lord(of darkness) my soul to take.

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  13. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1EBw_da7BZk

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  14. The article neglects to consider other factors that contribute to brain shrinkage. For instance lithium has also been shown through studies to shrink the brain, and it is the primary treatment for schizophrenia and bipolar.

    Correlation does not necessitate causation.

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    Replies
    1. are you suggesting that schizophrenics are more likely to get infected by toxo? or that there is a common cause to both toxo infection and schizophrenia? it seems more plausible that toxo can induce schizophrenia in those who are predisposed. the article was clear there is no evidence of this but it is merely an interesting conjecture.

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  15. just remembered this...
    i'm ahead of the game apparently :)

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    Replies
    1. No you're not. This story was all over the news a month or two ago.

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    2. Medusa is a poo poo headMarch 20, 2012 at 1:25 PM

      Yes he is. That linked post is from a year ago Medusa you retard.

      Delete
  16. What a freak!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f0RzanU41RE

    ReplyDelete

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