WHAT’S IN YOUR HEAD?

Taxoplasma Gondii (TG) is one of the most prevalent parasitic diseases on earth. It’s been shown to induce behavioural changes in its host by altering neural activity and has been linked to psychiatric disorders such as ADHD, OCD and schizophrenia. Although cats are its primary victims, with a 20-60% infection rate, almost all warm-blooded animals are prone to infection as intermediate hosts. Why does all this matter? Well, because there’s a 1 in 3 chance that you are a carrier.

TG spreads through the ingestion of a spore found in infected cat faeces and raw meat and, once it has bored its way into the brain, it can manipulate behavioural tendencies in intermediate hosts in order to help it reach a definitive one. Effected mice, for example, become less fearful of cats. Healthy adults will typically feel nothing worse than brief flu-like symptoms before antibodies start to fight off the parasite, which then remains dormant in the subject’s brain cells.

Research has suggested that possible effects of this latent infection include slower reaction times and an increased risk of traffic accidents. However, other studies have indicated that these accidents may in fact be a consequence of TG somehow increasing the host’s desire to take risks in general.

But it doesn’t stop there. A study on 191 women also found higher guilt-proneness and higher intelligence in those that tested positive for TG. Though the exact cause of these changes is still unknown, studies have found that the parasite sparks a knock-on effect resulting in increased levels of dopamine, an important chemical in the brain which controls emotional responses and the ability to feel pleasure and pain.  It’s been proven that dopamine deficiency is the cause of sexual dysfunctions such as premature ejaculation. So, if you suffer from the ghastly “prems”, a toxoplasma infection may be your cure. Suddenly that 1 in 3 chance doesn’t look like such bad odds.