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back to article Common brain parasite 'can affect host's actions'

Boffins here in Blighty say that a brain parasite which is carried by up to 20 per cent of the population is capable of affecting its host's actions for its own benefit – but against the interests of the host. The parasite in question, Toxoplasma gondii, has now been found to "directly affect" the production of dopamine, a key …

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Let me get this straight....

this is a possible cure for Parkinsons???

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Meh

If dopamine makes you happy

what's the problem? Except for the fact that your eating cat crap.

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Much more complex than that

Dopamine doesn't simply "make you happy". It affects a very wide range of behaviours in really complex ways. For example, people who take dopamine supplements (for a variety of disorders) can end up being compulsive shoppers or gamblers. They get into huge amounts of debt because they can't control their spending (effectively, they get a big rush from buying something because the extra dopamine makes them feel great when it's triggered)

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Unhappy

Already infected

"It's been known for some time that T gondii has a more serious effect on rats and mice, in which they lose their fear of cats or even become attracted to them"

OMG I like cats and aren't scared of them.

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more proof that cats are evil.

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Anonymous Coward

Ahhh...

Finally, an explanation for why I like Pussy so much - its not even mine its my girlfriend's. I don't even complain when it plonks itself on the desk when I'm working.

Sorry. Too much Kenneth Williams as a child.

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Or...

Are You Being Served?

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Stop

Don't joke about it

I've seen this happen to many poor chaps. They snuggle up with some random feline, and then they go all strangely happy and you never see them again. Tragic really.

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Meh

So that explains the existence of Cat people.

How do I get this thing out of my head then?

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Informed

I now know not to eat cat shit. Thanks !

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Anonymous Coward

I can't stop laughing at your post

Does that mean I've got this damn thing?

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Meow.

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FAIL

Just of fthe press, huh?

Except that Robert Sapolsky and his whole lab have been making this known, this specific aspect, for over three years, and that Leeds and Oxford Unis have been talking about it for at least six...

What are we, the Daily Mewl now?

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Joke

20% population controlled?

I understand now (unwashed) Apple's cult.

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Anonymous Coward

And how it happens? Search for "typical mac user" on your image search-engine of choice.

Yummy.

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Happy

Ah, it makes sense now

So does this help to explain why so many people keep cats, a bargain in which these feline parasites exchange warmth, comfort and food for scratched furniture, bodily secretions and occasional vomited offerings of half-chewed nestlings or small mammals?

Now to find the chihuahua parasite that infects continental women..

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Terminator

Is it wise?

Putting this information into electronic form where the machines can find and use it could be dangerous....

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Boffin

20% of Britons own a cat. 20% of Britons carry the toxoplasmosis parasite. Hmmm....

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Anonymous Coward

So this parasite causes

too much dopamine, or too little dopamine? Because there's no shortage of cat poo where I live in the suburbs.

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OMG

How do I check if I've got this. I remember terrifying biol lessons at school in the 60s and there were frequent illustrations of all sorts of flukes and whatnot from under cooked pork, no one fears that any more but brain parasites off veggies - aaarrrrggghhhhhhh!

Mind you the incubus persuading a rat he needs to cuddle up to the nearest puddy tat well that's genius, quite comical really. They ought to bottle that urge and spread it through the rat population like they did to rabbits via Myxomatosis.

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Anonymous Coward

Veggies with cat poo on them???

Or, getting cat poo on your hands while weeding or doing anything else in the garden. So it's not just dog faeces that are a threat to the health and well-being of the nation..

In my experience, cat owners (and this includes my late mother) don't seem to mind if their pets shit in someone else's garden. Apparently it's in the cats nature (at least that's what mum always used to say). Personally, I fail to see any difference between this and dog owners that don't pick up their dogs shit. It just seems that in one case we rightly expect and require by law that dog owners take responsibility for their animals actions, whereas cat owners have no responsibility at all...

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Agreed. It annoys me a little that cat owners are exempt from responsibility of their pets (this seems to be unique to this pet, as all other pets need to be accounted for by their owner). I used to have a lot of issues with cats fouling my garden. Other people (cat owners) response was usually along the lines of doing things to cat-proof my garden (put up a better fence, leave lion poo around, fill a bottle with water etc.) But why is it my prerogative to keep your pets out? Should it not be your responsibility to keep your pets away from my garden?

I have a German Shepherd now, so cats in the garden are not such a problem anymore, but I do worry what the legal implications are if he kills or maims a cat in our own garden (he likes to play, only, his idea of playing can be a bit rough).

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You've obviously never owned a cat, have you.

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Boffin

Look in the mirror-

Is there a brain slug on your head?

(or won't it let you say yes?.... hmmm.)

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Cats vs Dogs.

Well, I'd imagine the difference in view is because of the difference in behaviour.

Dogs shit where they stand and are taken for walks in public areas. This means that dog shit can (and usually is) all over public areas where others come to walk and play.

Cats on the other hand aren't taken for walks and generally find a discrete spot to bury their business. I've never been walking down the street and stepped in cat shit.

As for the whole garden thing, that is surely a problem with the owner not the animal.

As for accountability of an animal - again, I'd imagine the view is that a cat is far less likely to injure or kill a human. I've heard of plenty of stories of dogs killing and injuring people, but other than the one story of a guy having a knife fight with his cat and somehow losing*, I can't recall of cats ever making the news in that way.

*http://blogs.houstonpress.com/hairballs/2011/05/killer_house_cat.php

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Happy

@br0die

"I have a German Shepherd now" Good choice of dog - trained and dedicated sir! If he kills a cat in your garden, take a video and post it on Youtube! The cat would probably have been playing with a mouse until it has a heart attack or something! Anyway, keeps the cat shit oot the garden hopefully - dodgy stuff

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There was that story about the snake that killed a cat that wandered into its garden. Lead to a huge outcry from the Cat Enthralled screaming how dare a snake attack a defenceless kitty.

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FAIL

Just how do you police that??

You know cats have their own lives right? About the only way to control where they go to the toilet is to lock them in the house, and besides, cats don't tend to dump all over the pavements do they?

If you think you can control where a cat goes to the loo, give it a try and get someone to film you, the footage should get you the £250 from You've Been Framed

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O.K. I'll bite.

No, I have never owned a cat. But perhaps you can help me adjust my opinion of them.

Go on, explain. All I need to know is: "Why is it my prerogative to spend money cat proofing my veggie patch? Why do I need to pay to keep someone elses cat shit away from my little girl's sand pit? Why are cats owners not subjected to the same responsibility laws as dog owners?"

Please do explain without using the excuse that "its in their nature". This is not a valid argument as (1) Cats are not native to the UK. (2) Its in human nature to kill wild annimals for food, but the law prevents me from doing that to your cat.

Article 1 of the UDHR needs rewriting to formalise the unwritten superiority of cat owners.

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Holmes

Cats are in charge.

That's all.

Most people know it ... but some have become infected by a strange virus that causes them to post bad stuff about cats on the internet. It is suspected that it is spread by dogs. Among other symptoms, are having no fear of the dog, even sniggling up to it...

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Nitwit.

It is my dogs *instinct* to chase stuff. In the case of cats, rabbits and other smaller mammals, it would, in all probability kill them if it caught them. I am required by law to maintain control of my dog by NOT letting it out unless I have control of it.

It is a common myth that cats find a place out of the way and bury their shit. Some do, the majority don't. Cats *can* be taken out for walks on a lead, I know, because I've seen people doing it. In that case you would have control of your cats arse. You might also prevent it from killing birds.

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FAIL

Wow this is getting fun to read

"(1) Cats are not native to the UK."

Since when were you native to the UK? This is not where humans originated. If you just mean "I was born here" then I can assure you the cat probably was too and so by your definition is a native.

"(2) Its in human nature to kill wild annimals for food, but the law prevents me from doing that to your cat."

Wow just wow, I want to see you eat this cat after you have killed it as you seem to think you should be allowed to do. No, no cooking allowed, like you said its in our nature to kill, as it is in our nature just to eat the thing we just killed there and then you know like the cat does.

I am going to take it on guess work here that you have never killed an animal to eat it in your life. TESCO or Morrisons maybe even ASDA perhaps.

And yes I grew up with cats, like cats and I hate the little shits doing that in my garden too. I do not have any pets. Perhaps the parasites are making me say this?

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Facepalm

City folk...

I find it amusing (and at times some what dismaying) to read comments from some people who are very obviously out of touch with nature. They react with shock, dismay and even anger when they find poo in their garden. Yes animals do indeed crap on everything. Welcome to the real world, where Poo is part of the natural world! :)

If they think its bad that cats, dogs (and yes don't forget foxes) crap in their gardens, then they should try living in the countryside, where you'll find every animal, big and small trying to crap all over everything around you! :) ... Even better they all try to out compete each other crapping on everything to say, to other animals, that's mine, that's mine. Maybe that's where we humans are all going wrong. Maybe we should be crapping on everything to mark it as ours! ;)

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Devil

Not in US

Not sure about UK, but where I live, both CATS and DOGS a legally required to not only be cleaned up after by their owner, but are also required to be ON A LEASH when out of the house.

OK sure there are plenty of violators in my neighborhood, but the law is clearly against them.

Should I ever have the time on my hands I could photo their cat being out of doors and pooping and simply submit the evidence to the local police to press charges... would work out to about $200-400 for both tickets in most states.

Its also legally responsible to trap these "feral" cats and take them to the local pound to be euthanized. Cruel I'm sure, but if someone loved their pet I don't think they would let it outside to run around and get trapped by upset neighbors, fed garbage by local well intentioned kids, hurt by ill intentioned kids, or even just run over in the street. Granted the local pound will hold the animal for days to weeks depending on how crowded they currently are, but I'm sure your poop ignorant neighbors would bring their cat in, or stop picking it up after a few trips.

And I am not a hater of Cats, I have had Cats in my own home for decades, and no they are not allowed outside, because I love my pets and don't want them dead. And they poop where they are supposed to, and then I clean it up and make sure to wash my hands afterwards. I don't blame the animals I blame their lame, lazy owners that think their shit should be picked up by someone else.

Here's a suggestion for cats or dogs...start leaving the shit they leave behind on their owners doorstep...maybe they'll get the hint when it doesn't just go away on its own that you have to clean up after those animals that are in your care... If that doesn't work start smearing it on their door handle, car etc.. eventually they will learn

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Own a cat?

No one owns a Cat. A Cat might think it owns you.

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WTF?

So your garden's now full of dog shit? Cats shitting in your garden is usually just them marking their turf, having identified the owner as inferior to them (I know, cats eh!!). But being pretty canny, they'll avoid the soppy German Shepherd for about 8 years until his hips are so shot from genetically acquired faults, and then they'll slowly torture it by shitting on their garden again. Little f***ers.

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The German Shepherd

Just a quick note,

If you can get yourself a German Shepherd/FlatCoat Retriever mognrel.

You are onto a serious winner( So long as you have the retriever back end)

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@MrCheese

This does not change the fact it's not my job to police your pets. The excuse that "they have their own lives" does not hold. If it did, I could keep a pet elephant, and if it crushed your car I would use the same excuse, since he likes to walk around on his own and I can't keep it trapped in the house, poor thing.

If *you* can't control your pet, *you* should not have one. You are not a special case because of your choice of pet.

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Oldish news, although the Dopamine mechanism may be newly quantified. Have a look at:

Proc. R. Soc. B November 7, 2006 273:2749-2755 ; Kevin D Lafferty; "Can the common brain parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, influence human culture?" -

"The latent prevalence of a long-lived and common brain parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, explains a statistically significant portion of the variance in aggregate neuroticism among populations, as well as in the ‘neurotic’ cultural dimensions of sex roles and uncertainty avoidance. "

http://www.livescience.com/7019-mind-control-parasites.html

http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2334/2/11 "The subjects with latent toxoplasmosis have significantly increased risk of traffic accidents than the noninfected subjects. "

Jaroslav Flegr, of Prague, have shown that widespread infection is associated with changing the sex ration from 104:100 boys:girls to 260:100.

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Anonymous Coward

Sex ration?

> Jaroslav Flegr, of Prague, have shown that widespread infection is associated with changing the sex ration from 104:100 boys:girls to 260:100.

I can assure you the staff did their best to make sure there was no sex ration when I was at school.

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Pint

Not new, actually.

I remember something like this from NewScientist back before Gulf War II.

Too lazy to check and I no longer have a subscription....

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Vermin

Yet another reason why it should be legal, no - scratch that - encouraged, to exterminate such vermin.

It's OK for a "pet" cat to dig up, piss and shit wherever they feel like however it is not the same for a pet dog. Either let dogs roam free in a similar manner or all cats must have leashes and be kept solely on their owners property. Try arguing that with a typical blinkered cat attendant.

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Paris Hilton

here, here

I`m not a fan of cats either. I thinks it strange that ppl that own cats also put up birds tables. Maybe its the parasite at work...

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WTF?

Dogs roam free in the interests of equality, eh?

So, when was the last time that a child was savaged to death by a cat?

Look, if you don't like cats in your garden, use a hose. It's fun, and they learn quickly not to return.

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They do!

Dogs are often allowed to roam off the leash in the enclosures of the New Forest, pissing and shitting up all the paths. Their owners take them there to avoid having to scoop up their dogs' mess. Really, really annoying. Probably doesn't do the ponies any good or the people who have to track the crap into their homes.

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So easy

Yes, I love cats and have one well trained cat myself. Nevertheless, I have had to take over from my now deceased Abyssinian who used to regularly beat the shit out my neighbour's feral torty. Spraying cats with a water squirter is kinda fun, too, and harmless. Try it. It seems to work.

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Anonymous Coward

This is news?!

It's been known about for years! There's a RadioLab podcast about it from like 2 years ago and it wasn't new then.

As for the 'statistical link' with mental illness: cat people are ALL barking mad. Who keeps an animal that digs its paws in its poo then walks all over their kitchen work surfaces? And who keeps a tray of their animals' poo in their kitchen, anyway?

Plus cats kill more birds than in a day than every wind farms do in a year.

Disgusting beast: we should kill the lot of 'em.

Me? A dog person? Never!

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Anonymous Coward

You, a dog person?

Who would own an animal with the capacity to kill and whose faeces you have to scoop you behind him as he apparently has no sense of burying it as a cat does?

The only people who whinge about cats are the garden-proud despite the fact there are far bigger threats to your begonias

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@AC

"The only people who whinge about cats are the garden-proud"

(I'll bite.)

Or parents who would rather that their children didn't catch a parasite which can leave them blind or brain-damaged. And why is there something wrong with people being proud of their gardens?

As far as I'm concerned, there's no difference between you letting your cat crap in my garden and you pushing crap through my letterbox or throwing it at my windows. The only difference is where in my home the crap ends up. (Yes, my definition of home includes the garden. Doesn't yours?)

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Stop

Your animal has the capacity to kill

My family always had cats as pets. Time went past and when I got somewhere of my own I decided I'd rather have birds in the garden. That was when I really began to appreciate that your average moggie likes a nice veggie patch for a shit. Or flowerpots or tubs or, in fact anywhere that's NOT on its territory.

So, I don't have to be garden proud to object to getting cat shit on my hands when I'm gardening.

People here aren't saying you can't keep a cat, just that you take responsibility for some of its less desirable habits. Saying that you can't help it, or that the cat is beyond your control is just you trying to find an excuse for your inadequacy.

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