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Still Waters

Is house cat poo making humans crazy?

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Jaroslav Flegr is no kook. And yet, for years, he suspected his mind had been taken over by parasites that had invaded his brain. So the prolific biologist took his science-fiction hunch into the lab. What he’s now discovering will startle you. Could tiny organisms carried by house cats be creeping into our brains, causing everything from car wrecks to schizophrenia? A biologist’s science- fiction hunch is gaining credence and shaping the emerging science of mind- controlling parasites.

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That's crazy. But, I wouldn't be surprised, because most of the cat owners I knew seemed a little koo-koo. :rofl:

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No. But the dog poo on the sidewalk makes me crazy!

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Pretty sure Fortean Times had a feature on this a few years back. They used this research and looked at the link between witches familiars (in this case cats,) and possibilities of the role of schizophrenia etc in the practice of witchcraft. It was very interesting.

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That is both scary and so interesting! Great article, gonna have to go home and do some more research now though! :P

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Amazing article, kinda creepy really. I always knew I didn't like cats

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A very interesting, informative, and enlightening article. It's going to make me more aware of my own behavior now. Did it say you could be infected only from eating it, or can it be inhaled?

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I've had cats all my life, so I will never be able to tell if my personality is due to ingesting cat feces or not.

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That would explain the cat ladys behaviour

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Never under estimate the power of the *****.

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Whole article boils down to these two short sentences:

But I dont know whether my personality traits have anything to do with the infection.

Even the author admits the possible changes are so subtle its hard to notice them and impossible to determine if they were caused by parasite or virtually anything else.

To me that suggests the parasite may trigger schizophrenia in genetically susceptible people.

Just like anything else were exposed to can trigger anything youre genetically susceptible to.

In short, people dont become schizophrenic from cleaning litter boxes. Damn the sensationalist style, its impossible to read about anything anymore without having episodes of justified rage.

See, Im surrounded by cats since birth... no, before the birth too... so I must be carrying that bug, but Im the exact opposite of what this bull theory proposes. Statistics has become the art of drawing deliberately wrong conclusions out of pile of messed up data, and that additionally p***es me off.

Who pays for that science?

Edited by Helen of Annoy
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I agree with you Helen.

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I agree with you, Helen.

There needs to be some real, substantial controlled studies to determine whether the toxoplasma gondii parasite causes the cognitive differences found in some individuals exposed to it or if it merely aggravated a genetic predisposition to those behaviors (maybe it doesn't have any effect on the brain and the comorbitity between the cognitive symptoms and the toxoplasma is simply a coincidence). A study involving twins would be a great way to start, yet even then their enviroment would have to be largely similar with the only difference between the two is the exposure to the toxoplasma parasite. This would be difficult, imo.

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Whole article boils down to these two short sentences:

Even the author admits the possible changes are so subtle it’s hard to notice them and impossible to determine if they were caused by parasite or virtually anything else.

Just like anything else we’re exposed to can trigger anything you’re genetically susceptible to.

In short, people don’t become schizophrenic from cleaning litter boxes. Damn the sensationalist style, it’s impossible to read about anything anymore without having episodes of justified rage.

See, I’m surrounded by cats since birth... no, before the birth too... so I must be carrying that bug, but I’m the exact opposite of what this bull theory proposes. Statistics has become the art of drawing deliberately wrong conclusions out of pile of messed up data, and that additionally p***es me off.

Who pays for that science?

If you read the article, the main guys research was hardly paid for at all. Also, this is a very prevalent parasite. It should be studied, and contrary to your belief the studies were done in excellent ways and the results are very strong. This is not a case of statistics being wrong or deliberately wrong conclusions, whatever that is. Your own emotions and inaccurate anecdotal evidence are not going to change anything. Definitely more research needs to be done and it looks like that is happening all around the world. This could lead to very good things, and none of it has to do with getting rid of your cats or anything like that. Just chill out, really.

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I agree with you, Helen.

There needs to be some real, substantial controlled studies to determine whether the toxoplasma gondii parasite causes the cognitive differences found in some individuals exposed to it or if it merely aggravated a genetic predisposition to those behaviors (maybe it doesn't have any effect on the brain and the comorbitity between the cognitive symptoms and the toxoplasma is simply a coincidence). A study involving twins would be a great way to start, yet even then their enviroment would have to be largely similar with the only difference between the two is the exposure to the toxoplasma parasite. This would be difficult, imo.

These studies were really good and multidimensional. I am sure there will be more studies in the future. The best study for right now would be to set up a system where you can look at human CNS neurons and infect them. Unfortunately, only glial cells can be made immortal, neurons are terminally differentiated. I still think it could be worked out.

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These studies were really good and multidimensional. I am sure there will be more studies in the future. The best study for right now would be to set up a system where you can look at human CNS neurons and infect them. Unfortunately, only glial cells can be made immortal, neurons are terminally differentiated. I still think it could be worked out.

You are spot on, sir. I'm not saying that the current studies were poorly done or intentionally misleading, but it is just inherently difficult to explain the cause of cognitive differences between large groups of people, let alone whether the parasite is the main cause or simply a catalyst (which would still be an important discovery, nonetheless).

I'm sure that the toxoplasma probably has some effect to exacerbate symptoms of aggressiveness, instability, or risk-taking, but there are people who are not infected with the parasite who have all of these traits just due to their own psychological or cognitive development. That's why I think a study with twins would be a great way to go because the structural differences of the brains are minimal and genetic components could be ruled out. Your study is probably much more feasible, though, mainly because the cognitive development even between twins can be changed due to enviromental factors like parenting and culture.

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I still think it’s not the colour of the car that determines if you’ll have a crash while driving it. (I picked the first droolingly stupid theory that doesn't make me go too balistic.)

Though we have unbiased, quality studies conducted by completely sane resource wasters that proved otherwise.

Holmes has a point, give me twins with very similar personalities and living in the same environment, one infected at some point in life, other clean, document significant personality change, and then we can mention particular bug in context of actual influence on behaviour.

So far, besides mercilessly misunderstood statistic data*, we have one slightly eccentric guy with tendency to search for outside culprit for his own social inadequacy (or what he sees as such).

*linking Toxoplasma to traffic accidents?! Really?! With zillions of other factors that lead to accidents in general? I find such childish simplification insulting for my intelligence.

Social life of a rat is significantly different than that of a human and though parasites, diseases, malformations and traumas definitely and obviously can directly (brain damage) or indirectly (emotional response to your condition) change your behaviour, neither Toxoplasma nor any other known parasite is capable of puppeteering human brain.

Searching hard to prove there are hidden puppeteers that wreck your social life... well, does that sound like an idea that should be supported and encouraged or the unfortunate individual should be advised to face themselves, maybe with some professional help?

Edit: It reminds me of this piece of anti-wisdom that circulates my part of the Internet lately:

Only 20% of all traffic accidents in the last year were caused by drunk drivers. Will we finally stop the sober 80% that is obviously the true menace?

That’s statistics for you.

Edited by Helen of Annoy

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My zoology class was just studying this, along with giardia and a few other parasites. What a weird coincidence.

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If you read the article, the main guys research was hardly paid for at all. Also, this is a very prevalent parasite. It should be studied, and contrary to your belief the studies were done in excellent ways and the results are very strong. This is not a case of statistics being wrong or deliberately wrong conclusions, whatever that is. Your own emotions and inaccurate anecdotal evidence are not going to change anything. Definitely more research needs to be done and it looks like that is happening all around the world. This could lead to very good things, and none of it has to do with getting rid of your cats or anything like that. Just chill out, really.

If the article is correct then we will never know for sure if the studies and claims are actually factual or part of the reaction of a parasitic mind. Our human behaviors are therefore supposedly controlled by a parasite. Is this an intelligent parasite? Are we then living in some simbionic relationship with them? If it affects women differently than men, could it be actually hormone related in some way? How do we know that our actual food sources are safe and not contaminated with something that can affect our behavior. If it is happening around the world maybe it is carried by the wind or the water we drink. Since if infected we do not know if our behavior is changed or is just the normal inherited attitudes and beliefs due to our environment while growing up or even genetically suseptible to certain behaviors and diseases, who would be able to acurately study it if no one is sure our thinking and behavior are not influenced by some weird organism out there? I do not own cats since most of us are allergic to them, but I have had cats in the past. I have to agree with Helen that there is too much fearmongering and sensationalism going on in todays society. Perhaps the study should be on how to eradicate the parasite. Most of the accidents I have been in were either someone not paying attention (talking on cell phone)or just plain stupidity. On occasion it is caused by other distractions like kids fighting in the back seat or a wasp that gets stuck in the car(like in my case). I doubt if cat feces had anything to do with it. Get rid of the parasite and then do another clinical study.

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I still think it’s not the colour of the car that determines if you’ll have a crash while driving it. (I picked the first droolingly stupid theory that doesn't make me go too balistic.)

Though we have unbiased, quality studies conducted by completely sane resource wasters that proved otherwise.

Holmes has a point, give me twins with very similar personalities and living in the same environment, one infected at some point in life, other clean, document significant personality change, and then we can mention particular bug in context of actual influence on behaviour.

So far, besides mercilessly misunderstood statistic data*, we have one slightly eccentric guy with tendency to search for outside culprit for his own social inadequacy (or what he sees as such).

*linking Toxoplasma to traffic accidents?! Really?! With zillions of other factors that lead to accidents in general? I find such childish simplification insulting for my intelligence.

Social life of a rat is significantly different than that of a human and though parasites, diseases, malformations and traumas definitely and obviously can directly (brain damage) or indirectly (emotional response to your condition) change your behaviour, neither Toxoplasma nor any other known parasite is capable of puppeteering human brain.

Searching hard to prove there are hidden puppeteers that wreck your social life... well, does that sound like an idea that should be supported and encouraged or the unfortunate individual should be advised to face themselves, maybe with some professional help?

Edit: It reminds me of this piece of anti-wisdom that circulates my part of the Internet lately:

Only 20% of all traffic accidents in the last year were caused by drunk drivers. Will we finally stop the sober 80% that is obviously the true menace?

That’s statistics for you.

I have to agree with you Helen. Blaming parasites for lack of social life is in itself ridiculous. There are other factors such as personality, behavior, and yes even looks.I believe more research is warranted. What about those who have never owned a cat or been in contact with feces and are still idiots, socialy inept, or just plaing aggressive? Can we say Toxoplasma is then an alien spore trying to control us? The whole thing has holes in it. If the good doctor was infected how do we know his theories are factual and true and not the result of a 'controlled mind' caused by the parasite. Women go for the hunks because they look like they have a strong genepool and lets face it the same goes for guys. So if you are changing the kitty litter wear a mask and wash your hands thoroughly is my advice. That is unless your kitty litter spores have already flown around the world infecting the unsuspecting populance and controlling their minds and behaviors. Sounds like something out of a SF movie. I would want actual proof not a flawed study. Finding ways to get rid of the organism might be a better idea than unproven claims.

Edited by minera

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I have to agree with you Helen. Blaming parasites for lack of social life is in itself ridiculous. There are other factors such as personality, behavior, and yes even looks.I believe more research is warranted. What about those who have never owned a cat or been in contact with feces and are still idiots, socialy inept, or just plaing aggressive? Can we say Toxoplasma is then an alien spore trying to control us? The whole thing has holes in it. If the good doctor was infected how do we know his theories are factual and true and not the result of a 'controlled mind' caused by the parasite. Women go for the hunks because they look like they have a strong genepool and lets face it the same goes for guys. So if you are changing the kitty litter wear a mask and wash your hands thoroughly is my advice. That is unless your kitty litter spores have already flown around the world infecting the unsuspecting populance and controlling their minds and behaviors. Sounds like something out of a SF movie. I would want actual proof not a flawed study. Finding ways to get rid of the organism might be a better idea than unproven claims.

Amen :yes:

I got carried away and forgot the most obvious, logical and sane conclusion - that one above. Thank you.

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neither Toxoplasma nor any other known parasite is capable of puppeteering human brain.

Rabies.

Once it reaches the brain, symptoms include slight or partial paralysis, cerebral dysfunction, anxiety, insomnia, confusion, agitation, abnormal behavior, paranoia, hallucinations, progressing to delirium.

I've gotta say, I have to question if you guys even read the article. Rabies is a viral infection that has far more impact on behavior and response than what he is suggesting (and what has already been proven by others) about Toxoplasma. No one was talking about a zombie inducing bug or something that made you steer your car into another car. He said slower reaction time may cause car accidents. Are you going to argue that delayed reactions wouldn't have an impact on car accidents? Isn't that why drinking and driving is illegal?

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This is all crap. Pun intended. Its just some journo wasting his life writing nothingness.

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I have to agree with you Helen. Blaming parasites for lack of social life is in itself ridiculous. There are other factors such as personality, behavior, and yes even looks.I believe more research is warranted. What about those who have never owned a cat or been in contact with feces and are still idiots, socialy inept, or just plaing aggressive? Can we say Toxoplasma is then an alien spore trying to control us? The whole thing has holes in it. If the good doctor was infected how do we know his theories are factual and true and not the result of a 'controlled mind' caused by the parasite. Women go for the hunks because they look like they have a strong genepool and lets face it the same goes for guys. So if you are changing the kitty litter wear a mask and wash your hands thoroughly is my advice. That is unless your kitty litter spores have already flown around the world infecting the unsuspecting populance and controlling their minds and behaviors. Sounds like something out of a SF movie. I would want actual proof not a flawed study. Finding ways to get rid of the organism might be a better idea than unproven claims.

Can you point out why you think the study is flawed?

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Rabies.

I've gotta say, I have to question if you guys even read the article. Rabies is a viral infection that has far more impact on behavior and response than what he is suggesting (and what has already been proven by others) about Toxoplasma. No one was talking about a zombie inducing bug or something that made you steer your car into another car. He said slower reaction time may cause car accidents. Are you going to argue that delayed reactions wouldn't have an impact on car accidents? Isn't that why drinking and driving is illegal?

Rabies is a viral infection, exactly, and it sends you into coma followed by death. Toxoplasma is a parasite that may or may not slower your reactions a bit, according to wishful thinking of a guy that blames everything he did wrong on said parasite.

These two (rabies and toxo) have nothing in common.

Now, say, tapeworm and Toxo have something in common, both are parasites, so people with tapeworm probably are less fit to drive since their behind is itchy, which is distracting, and their blood sugar is low, since tapeworm absorbs more than their own digestion, which is debilitating.

Someone’s social life or motor cortex related skills can suck for a number of reasons, and it’s almost never just one factor that screws them up.

It’s, of course, absolutely great idea to test for parasites and get rid of them, but trying to shift blame for your own averageness onto a parasite... that’s pathetic.

I certainly won’t argue that slow reactions are bad for driving, that’s precisely why I think that not every clumsy moron should be allowed to drive. There a loads of slow, disoriented and stupid people causing accidents, each with their own sets of reasons for why they are unfit to drive.

The lack of fear and the self-destructive behaviour in general are hilariously more complex issues than article suggests. (First thing that comes to mind is severe depression, something that people with low self-esteem are bound to get. The article is dripping with Jiri’s insecurity.)

My point is that a human, as an organism and as a person, cannot possibly be reduced to one factor only. That’s the flaw of theory from the OP. It focuses on one, relatively bizarre, side factor.

And it wouldn’t annoy me if such (otherwise cute in its enthusiastic lunacy) theory wasn’t presented as groundbreaking parasitological news that will change psychiatry as we know it. It won't.

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