Angry Robot

The Brainwashing Parasite

I did a quicklink of this article about the parasite that brainwashes rats into not being afraid of cats but I want to bring it up here because it’s thought-provoking and creepy as fuck.

Rats and mice normally flee if they smell cat urine, but not if they’re infected by the protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii. The parasite can only complete its life cycle if its rodent host is eaten by a cat, so it “brainwashes” the creature into apparently liking the scent.

This little bastard does this because it only reaches the sexual stage when inside a cat. Apparently the brain alteration is precise; no other parts or rats’ brains are affected.

“Language is a virus” is supposed to just be a theory, a colourful metaphor. But here we have an actual protozoan parasite that goes around changing one’s ideas of the world. The wikipedia article says, “several independent pieces of evidence point towards a role of Toxoplasma infection in cases of schizophrenia and paranoia.” Imagine a parasite that makes you believe the war in Iraq is a great idea?