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Why I Prefer Dogs

February 14, 2012

Toxoplasma gandii is the reason pregnant women should not clean out the kitty litter. It’s a parasite that is primarily picked up through contact with cat shit. It can cause terrible birth defects but is otherwise not really a problem, simply laying dormant in the bodies of those who’ve picked it up. But it may not be as simple as that. There is research being done to determine if this parasite, when it lays dormant it does so in the brain, actually influences the behavior of those infected. This all comes from a a really fascinating article in The Atlantic. Yeah, yeah, I know. I’ll post a video of somebody singing or doing something foolish at the end of the post.

Experiments on both rats and people has produced some pretty amazing and freaky findings. For example, it can make rats act in ways that will get them killed:

T. gondii, reports Sapolsky, can turn a rat’s strong innate aversion to cats into an attraction, luring it into the jaws of its No. 1 predator.

And humans don’t come off any better:

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 women.

It may also profoundly impact who gets schizophrenia, and how those who already have it will fare. It is all another nail in the coffin of the notion of free will.

Go read it, it’s a really interesting article.

As promised, a song:

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