The Atlantic delivers the most fascinating and disturbing article I have read... well, in a while - How Your Cat Is Making You Crazy.
It's long and no summary will do it justice, but the elevator pitch is this: an eccentric researcher has discovered that the common cat parasite that infects roughly one third of all humans and is believed to lie latent in the brain actually seems to cause reduced reaction times (leading to more traffic deaths), personality changes, and schizophrenia in the genetically susceptible.
The subjects who tested positive for the parasite had significantly delayed reaction times. Flegr was especially surprised to learn, though, that the protozoan appeared to cause many sex-specific changes in personality. Compared with uninfected men, males who had the parasite were more introverted, suspicious, oblivious to other people’s opinions of them, and inclined to disregard rules. Infected women, on the other hand, presented in exactly the opposite way: they were more outgoing, trusting, image-conscious, and rule-abiding than uninfected women.
Did Richard Nixon have a cat? And is there an infectious agent behind the "cat people, dog people" dichotomy?
Lest you are still untroubled, this bug may be a trigger for schizophrenia:
Many schizophrenia patients show shrinkage in parts of their cerebral cortex, and Flegr thinks the protozoan may be to blame for that. He hands me a recently published paper on the topic that he co-authored with colleagues at Charles University, including a psychiatrist named Jiri Horacek. Twelve of 44 schizophrenia patients who underwent MRI scans, the team found, had reduced gray matter in the brain—and the decrease occurred almost exclusively in those who tested positive for T. gondii. After reading the abstract, I must look stunned, because Flegr smiles and says, “Jiri had the same response. I don’t think he believed it could be true.” When I later speak with Horacek, he admits to having been skeptical about Flegr’s theory at the outset. When they merged the MRI results with the infection data, however, he went from being a doubter to being a believer. “I was amazed at how pronounced the effect was,” he says. “To me that suggests the parasite may trigger schizophrenia in genetically susceptible people.”
OK, that was a longish elevator ride. Read it all, or go crazy trying.