Score one for conspiracy theorists. Our minds are being controlled by outside forces – but Obama and DARPA aren’t to blame.* In keeping with the theme that little critters have a lot more to do with our world than we thought, at least two of these (a protozoan and a virus) are widespread in humans and may be messing with our minds.
Toxoplasma gondii (toxo) is a protozoan often found in cats. When rats become infected, they tend to make dumber decisions that are more likely to lead them into the jaws of a cat. Jaroslav Flegr, an evolutionary biologist, discovered that toxo may induce similar behaviors in humans, and may even trigger schizophrenia and suicide. In a Study of One, I got myself tested for toxo, and the results were negative. But up to a third of the population is infected. The adage “crazy cat lady” may have more truth to it than we thought. Is this proof that cats are trying to take over the world?
ATCV-1 is a virus normally found in algae, but a good proportion of humans may also be infected. In a recent study, people with the virus were found to be 10% worse on a cognitive test. If the cats get wind of this and decide to join forces with ATCV-1, we could be in big trouble.
Of course we know that most of the little critters that reside within us are fighting the good fight, often affecting our behavior positively. But there are untold numbers of microorganisms that subtly affect our health and behavior, and the next few years will bring more fun discoveries.
*Or are they?