Here’s the interview on Edge.org.
A few months ago I sat in the Coolidge Auditorium at the Library of Congress in our nation’s capital awaiting a fine performance by “Pressler & Friends” (for those not familiar, Menahem Pressler, as part of the Beaux Arts Trio, is considered by many to be one of the world’s finest pianists). My friend, Josh Duberman, who brought me and some other fine friends to this performance proceeded to take out a small stack of papers and asked me like any good teacher, “Take one and pass it down.”
This paper lead me to spend a lot of time putting this together:
Guided by Parasites: Toxoplasma Modified Humans
The paper Josh handed me was a print out of the full text of the interview from Edge.org. I was absolutely mesmerized by what I saw on the pages. I kept giggling in delight at the prose as well as the content. It was my introduction to Dr. Sapolsky and his research on how Toxoplasma (Toxoplasma gondii) [Toxo] affects humans in the most stunning ways.
I spent a few idle months gathering links, conversation, and readings on the subject. For one, This Dr. Robert Sapolsky is one damned well spoken beard. He can lecture students on his studies of baboons in Kenya and how stress affects the brain in the most data driven, science laden, and armor-piercing technicality, then turn around to a camera and speak in terms that you and I can not only engage in, but get enjoyment from the learning experience.
Why is Toxo so fucking amazing, bizarre, and eye-opening?
“…this is a protozoan parasite that knows more about the neurobiology of anxiety and fear than 25,000 neuroscientists standing on each other’s shoulders…” – Dr. Robert Sapolsky
It has been known about since 1908. It has been researched for years. Only recently have we found out that not only does it make rats sexually attracted to cat piss (yup, I’m not joking one bit), but that it happens to affect humans in very interesting ways as well – and we are only now scratching the surface of what this bug is doing to our brains.
(NOTE: Toxo does not make us get a hard on when we smell cat piss.)
One of the interesting things I discovered is that Toxo infected male humans are 3-4 times more likely to be involved in fatal reckless driving accidents. It seems that the parasite has gone from modifying a rat’s brain to not be afraid of something it should indeed be afraid of (i.e., cats) and made them nearly hurl themselves at them. It seems that it might be doing the same thing to humans and literally hurling us at high speeds through our modified behavior.
Specifically, it appears that motorcyclists have a higher rate of Toxo infection.
“…if you ever get organs from a motorcycle accident death, check the organs for Toxo. I don’t know why, but you find a lot of Toxo.” – Dr. Sapolksy
I could go on, but I already have done so. Please feel free to join in the conversation over at my more lengthy blog entry.