Cat Got Your Tongue? Or Maybe Your Brain?
There would be more to be made of this, were I still biology teaching, and if I would let myself venture away from the tasks at hand this morning. Very interesting.
First, consider that parasites are successful, at least partly to the degree that they adapt to their host's habits. But beyond that, some parasites actually CHANGE the behaviour of their host to their own ends.
- The lancet fluke Dicrocoelium dendriticum forces its ant host to attach to the tips of grass blades, the easier to be eaten. The fluke needs to get into the gut of a grazing animal to complete its life cycle.
- The fluke Euhaplorchis californiensis causes fish to shimmy and jump so wading birds will grab them and eat them, for the same reason.
- Hairworms, which live inside grasshoppers, sabotage the grasshopper's central nervous system, forcing them to jump into pools of water, drowning themselves. Hairworms then swim away from their hapless hosts to continue their life cycle.
Recent evidence suggests that one of the most widely distributed human parasites, Toxoplasmosis (stated here to inhabit about 3 billion of us, mostly subclinically) is associated in some way with one of the most drastically altered human mental states, schizophrenia. Here are some toxoplamosis-schizophrenia connections:
- Toxoplasma infection is associated with damage to astrocytes, glial cells which surround and support neurons. Schizophrenia is also associated with damage to astrocytes.
- Pregnant women with high levels of antibodies to Toxoplasma are more likely to give birth to children who will develop schizophrenia.
- Human cells raised in petri dishes, and infected with Toxoplasma, will respond to drugs like haloperidol; the growth of the parasite stops. Haloperidol is an antipsychotic, used to treat schizophrenia."
And lastly, the drugs used to treat schizophrenia, the chemicals that are at least partially effective at reducing altered mentation, may do so because it turns out, they are toxic to the parasites that live in schizophrenic nerve tissue! Info from Mind Control by Parasites and Link Between Cat Feces and Schizophrenia.