How one enslaving wasp eats through another. Parasites can drive their hosts to do weird, dumb things.
But in certain oak trees, the parasites themselves get played. “Creepy and awesome,” says Kelly Weinersmith of Rice University in Houston, who has helped reveal a Russian doll of nested parasitisms. The saga begins when two majestic live oak species in the southeastern United States send out new shoots, and female crypt gall wasps (Bassettia pallida) arrive to lay eggs.
New neuroscience research says that Toxo—the cysts in our brains from cats—can improve our self-control.
For the 30 percent of people who have this infection, it's about more than promiscuity, schizophrenia, and car crashes. “It is definitely not smart to intentionally infect yourself. I’ve already had people ask.” A third of the world has been infected, though. Tiny cysts nested in one's brain and muscles attest. “If you’re young and healthy and have it already, it might provide some benefit, as we saw in our research,” Ann-Kathrin Stock, a cognitive neurophysiology researcher at the University of Dresden in Germany, told me. Many people have what feels like a cold after they get infected with Toxo.
“You might lose your ability to see, or lose your cognitive faculties,” Stock said. Toxoplasma: Rats for Outdoor Cats. When a male rat senses the presence of a fetching female rat, a certain region of his brain lights up with neural activity, in anticipation of romance.
Now Stanford University researchers have discovered that in male rats infected with the parasite Toxoplasma, the same region responds just as strongly to the odor of cat urine. “We see activity in the pathway that normally controls how male rats respond to female rats, so it’s possible the behavior we are seeing in response to cat urine is sexual attraction behavior, but we don’t know that,” said Patrick House, a PhD candidate in neuroscience in the School of Medicine. “I would not say that they are definitively attracted, but they are certainly less afraid. Toxoplasmosis. Getting to the bottom of the zombie ant phenomenon. It may sound like science fiction, but the body snatchers are for real.
David Hughes has seen them, and trailed them from the jungles of Thailand to the woodlands of South Carolina. He has brought them back to his lab, and cultured them, and begun to unravel their secrets. Gut microbes influence behavior. Gut bacteria linked to behavior: That anxiety may be in your gut, not in your head. For the first time, researchers at McMaster University have conclusive evidence that bacteria residing in the gut influence brain chemistry and behaviour.
The findings are important because several common types of gastrointestinal disease, including irritable bowel syndrome, are frequently associated with anxiety or depression. In addition there has been speculation that some psychiatric disorders, such as late onset autism, may be associated with an abnormal bacterial content in the gut. "The exciting results provide stimulus for further investigating a microbial component to the causation of behavioural illnesses," said Stephen Collins, professor of medicine and associate dean research, Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine. Bacteria in the gut may influence brain development. A team of scientists from around the globe have found that gut bacteria may influence mammalian brain development and adult behavior.
The study is published in the scientific journal PNAS, and is the result of an ongoing collaboration between scientists at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden and the Genome Institute of Singapore. The research team compared behavior and gene expression in two groups of mice -- those raised with normal microorganisms, and those raised in the absence of microorganisms (or germ-free mice).
That gut feeling. If aliens were to swoop in from outer space and squeeze a human down to see what we're made of, they would come to the conclusion that cell for cell, we're mostly bacteria.
In fact, single-celled organisms—mostly bacteria—outnumber our own cells 10 to one, and most of them make their home in the gut. The gut, in turn, has evolved a stunningly complex neural network capable of leveraging this bacterial ecosystem for the sake of both physical and psychological well-being. The idea that bacteria teeming in the gut—collectively known as the microbiome—can affect not only the gut, but also the mind, "has just catapulted onto the scene," says neuroimmunologist John Bienenstock, MD, of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. In just the last few years, evidence has mounted from studies in rodents that the gut microbiome can influence neural development, brain chemistry and a wide range of behavioral phenomena, including emotional behavior, pain perception and how the stress system responds.
Gut bacteria may influence thoughts and behaviour – Neurophilosophy. THE human gut contains a diverse community of bacteria which colonize the large intestine in the days following birth and vastly outnumber our own cells.
These intestinal microflora constitute a virtual organ within an organ and influence many bodily functions. Among other things, they aid in the uptake and metabolism of nutrients, modulate the inflammatory response to infection, and protect the gut from other, harmful micro-organisms. A new study by researchers at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario now suggests that gut bacteria may also influence behaviour and cognitive processes such as memory by exerting an effect on gene activity during brain development. Jane Foster and her colleagues compared the performance of germ-free mice, which lack gut bacteria, with normal animals on the elevated plus maze, which is used to test anxiety-like behaviours. Microbes manipulate your mind. Microbes Manipulate Your Mind, in the July/ August issue of Scientific American MIND "The thought of parasites preying on your body or brain very likely sends shivers down your spine.
Perhaps you imagine insectoid creatures bursting from stomachs or a malevolent force controlling your actions. These visions are not just the night terrors of science-fiction writers—the natural world is replete with such examples. Zombie Animals and the Parasites that Control Them. 12 Real Parasites That Control the Lives of Their Hosts. Attacks of the Brain-Controlling Parasites - Wired Science. Once upon a time, parasites were thought to live relatively simple lives: They hitched a ride on a host, sapping nutrients and energy but otherwise leaving it alone. But that was only part of the story.
Many parasites actually take control, causing their hosts to act in self-destructive ways that further their invaders' interests.The Lymantria dispar baculovirus, for example, causes caterpillars to climb into treetops rather than hiding in bark. When those that go uneaten by birds finally die and decompose (as pictured above), viral particles rain onto foliage below, infecting a new generation of caterpillars. "I think the reason people are a little creeped out by seeing pathogens control behavior is that we have examples of it around us all the time," said chemical ecologist Kelli Hoover of Pennsylvania State University, who describes L. dispar's gene target in a Sept. 9 Science study.
Images: 1) tlindenbaum/Flickr 2) David Carroll/Flickr. Parasitic Mind Control. Invasion Of The Mind-Controlling Zombie Parasites. Hide caption Toxoplasma gondii is a parasite, seen here in brain tissue, that can alter the behavior of the host. It can make rodents attracted to cats, leaving them vulnerable to getting eaten. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention A few months back, something terrible happened to millions of flies around Washington, D.C. "We were getting literally hundreds of reports of these crazy dead flies everywhere — on vegetation, on sign posts," says Mike Raupp, an entomologist at the University of Maryland. He says the flies were attacked by a mind-controlling fungus. "It basically zombie-izes them.