Is this brain parasite truly manipulating your behavior? + Brain edits when you blink

Is the brain parasite Toxoplasma manipulating your behavior or is your immune system to blame?

EXCERPT: . . . Toxoplasma gondii parasites, which sexually reproduce only in cats but can infect any animal, hijack the brain and affect the host’s behavior. In a turn of events that would make Charles Darwin smile, rats and mice infected with Toxoplasma behave in ways that make them easy prey for cats – exactly where Toxoplasma wants to go.

The ability of Toxoplasma to disrupt such basic instincts in rodents is alarming when you consider that one-third of humans also carry this parasite’s cysts in their brain. Latent toxoplasmosis in humans has been associated with serious neurological disorders, including schizophrenia, intermittent explosive (rage) disorder and suicide, but has never been shown to be a direct cause.

Could the parasite be manipulating people as well? Is there a way we can get rid of this parasite and, if so, would behavior return to normal?

I am a microbiologist who has been studying Toxoplasma for over 20 years. Not only have I found the parasite’s effects on its host to be endlessly fascinating, I have been trying to identify its vulnerabilities so physicians can better treat this currently incurable lifelong infection.

In a collaboration with biochemist Ronald Wek and neuroscientist Stephen L. Boehm II, we have made the surprising discovery that the parasites may not be directly manipulating its rodent host. Rather, the host’s immune response to the chronic infection may be to blame. (MORE)

Your Brain Stops Time When You Blink

EXCERPT: You spend about 10 per cent of your waking hours with your eyes shut, simply because of blinking. Every few seconds, each time you blink, your retinas are deprived of visual input for a period lasting anywhere between tens to hundreds of milliseconds (500 milliseconds is equivalent to half a second). You don’t usually notice this, because your brain suppresses the dark spells and stitches together the bursts of visual information seamlessly. But these dips in visual processing in the brain do have an impact: a new study in "Psychological Science" finds that, in an important way, they cause your sense of the passing of time to stop temporarily.

[...] The study raises all kinds of fascinating questions for future research to investigate. Right now, I’m sitting at my desk, focusing on my computer screen — relying heavily on vision. Yes, I’m absorbed in what I’m doing. But is one reason why time seems to go more quickly when I’m working because my blinks are affecting my judgements of time passing, but when I’m outside, hanging out with my kids, other types of sensory input are preventing or counteracting the time-compressing blink-effect? (MORE)

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