Tobias has a creepy-fun blog post up today about Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite that causes rats to become attracted to cats, which can adversely affect the development of a baby within a pregnant women's body. The post digs into Stanford scientist Dr. Robert Sopalsky's research around how "toxo" changes human behavior, but this snippet about how it "hijacks the sexual reward pathway" in rats' minds is pure gold.
Once in the rat, Toxo's goal is to then be eaten by a cat so it can be fruitful and multiply, but as I mentioned, this can only take place in the cat's gut. Toxo's goal is to get the rat eaten by a cat. Toxo could get the desired effect through a whole sort of seemingly obvious ways; e.g., Make the rat hard to run so it is easier for a cat to catch it. Instead it takes a far more interesting approach:
Toxo generates cysts in the brain of the rat. These cysts take over the fear center of the brain, but specifically the fear of predators. Common fear sources for rodents (e.g., bright lights, open spaces, etc.) still operate perfectly well in an infected rat, but now they are no longer afraid of cat piss. That alone would be cool enough, but Toxo takes it one step further. When Toxo is going about futzing with the fear center of the brain it also goes into the sexual excitement part of the brain. It hijacks the incoming Fear of Cat Piss™ and instead diverts the signal to the Barry White™ center of the brain.
"Somehow, this damn parasite knows how to make cat urine smell sexually arousing to rodents, and they go and check it out. Totally amazing." - Dr. Sapolsky
The rat is now sexually attracted to cat piss! (This is a fetish that gets you eaten by your predator and rats clearly do not have any safe words with cats.)
Now, this part blew my non-rat mind: Sapolsky says motorcyclists have a high probability of being infected with Toxo. Read the post to unpack that part.
Guided by Parasites: Toxoplasma Modified Humans
More about Sapolsky's research on Edge.org.
More than 800 American energy and Earth science researchers have signed a letter to Donald Trump outlining six steps they’re urging him to take to address human-caused climate change to protect “America’s economy, national security, and public health and safety.” The letter is accompanied by a public change.org petition to “Tell Trump To #ActOnClimate.” Here […]
James Delingpole is an invective-hurling anti-climate science columnist who has candidly admitted that he doesn’t bother to read scientific papers, calling himself a “an interpreter of interpretations.”
Kratom (previously) is a widely used herb that has been very effective in treating opioid withdrawal and other chronic, hard-to-treat conditions — it also became very controversial this year because the DEA decided, without evidence, to class it as a dangerous drug, and then changed its mind (unprecedented!) after a mass-scale petition that included interventions […]
These days, there’s definitely no shortage of touchscreen gloves available, but the key is finding ones that consistently work well. These iGloves Touchscreen Gloves are super reliable, and are on sale for just $11.99.Super comfortable and functional, these gloves will keep your hands warm and still let you use any touchscreen, from phones to tablets. The iGloves’ […]
The Black Friday Mac Bundle 2.0 is one of the Boing Boing Store’s best-selling Mac bundles yet, and it’s about to come to an end. If you don’t get your copy now, here’s what you’ll be missing:This bundle comes packing 9 top-rated Mac apps in one package, at the hugely discounted price of just $23.99. […]
The Boing Boing Store’s Gift Guide is full of ideas for pretty much anyone in your life like hipster ice cub trays, Xbox controllers, Halo Boards, and even diamond necklaces. As always, all products in the Boing Boing Store come at great discounts, too. Shop by price bucket starting at under $20. Under $20:Bloxx Jumbo Ice Trays […]