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The capture of the brain in the spirit of mother nature

The scientific approach 12.12.2016 at 12:56

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Fungus Cordyceps turns the ant into a zombie

As capturing the brain can happen in real life? Turns out it is able to mother nature. Consider the real-life examples.

not Funny mushrooms

the Life of insects is very heavy, but they are more likely to suffer from seizures of the brain. The truth is, zombism not new to those who study insects. It is very real and very common. So common that you will find the word "zombism" in professional entomological journals (entomology – the science of insects).

Take the fungus Cordyceps. For a relatively simple organism is no more difficult than the usual mushroom – Cordyceps is very smart: he knows how to capture the minds of insects. Those who are familiar with video games, "One of us", know the essence. A person infected by the spores of parasitic fungi. He turns into a humanoid creature, usually with strange growths on head. This infected fungus man runs around, trying to find uninfected people and spreading the spores on their victims, and the cycle continues.

If you replace "man" with "ant", this story happens almost everyday in the jungles around the world (Evans et al., 2011). The fungus Cordyceps life cycle begins as a small dispute that landed on the unsuspecting ant. First, the ant behaves almost the same as before receiving the debate. But he gradually ceases to carry out their normal duties in the colony, and begins to act a little strange and nervous. His behavior becomes so unusual that sometimes other ants expel him from the colony.

And here starts the horror. When the infection begins to operate at full strength, Cordyceps takes control of ganglion cells that comprise the brain of an ant. The fungus causes the insect to climb to a high tree, on a sheet somewhere over the colony. Typically ants don't do that, perhaps because that makes them easier to eat, but our little friend is infected, no longer in control of their actions. The fungus forces the ant to sink my jaws to the sheet to be fixed on it. Then the Cordyceps kills its host, and little foot grows out of the head of the ant, as something in the movie "Aliens" (directed by James Cameron, 1986). This process then produces disputes, and, if all goes well, the spores sit on the other ants in the colony, infecting more insects, and the cycle repeats. The process to elegance is simple: infect, thambipillai, repeat.

the Main worm

the Capture of the brain and zombipodobnyh behavior does not end in mushrooms and ants. The nature of some worms, like in the movie "Creep" (directed by James Gunn, 2006), are able to penetrate into your head. Literally. Imagine yourself crustaceans-Scud, a small ocean crustaceans. You float somewhere at the bottom of the ocean, eating algae may from time to time eggs. Life is good until you climb away from the bottom where scurry dangerous predators (fish).

But about another dangerous predator, which you may not know: scribing, or koljuchegolovye worm, a small creature that must complete its life cycle in the intestine of fish. However, it is difficult to get there, given that a) the worm is too small and the fish could not see him, so it is useless to try to look appetizing, and b) the worm hard to get to fish with a sandy bottom. So he cleverly and cruelly used you, the unsuspecting crustacean amphipod.

you See, koljuchegolovye the worm will dig right in your little brain of crayfish (Moore, 1995). You heard right: the worm literally chew their way in your nervous system and hijacks your brain.

you Catch it, you will do what should not: suddenly feel the urge to swim to the light ("go where brighter!"), directly to the surface of the water. Where swim dangerous fish. This is bad news for you but good for the worm that you control.

Rejoice that you are not a crustacean amphipod. Imagine what it's like to have a worm in the brain? Well, get ready not to sleep for the night. It turns out that people also can be infected with worms that penetrate into the brain. Is tapeworms. Sometimes penetrates into the brain from a lot of worms. (We understand that you want to stop reading and continue to live in blissful ignorance.)

a Parasitic disease neurocysticercosis (Sotelo et al., 1985) are much more common than you think. Here is how it starts. In the intestine some people live tapeworms. Usually they get there, if a person eats infected meat. These worms lay eggs that pass the intestinal tract and out as everything you eat, with feces. In places with poor sanitation wastewater sometimes mixed with water used for drinking and cooking. The microscopic eggs fall into food and ingested. Then the larvae make a way into your brain through the large blood vessels and start to build the capsule-cyst, which quietly growing, producing their own food from your blood.

of Course, if your brain lives a worm, it's bad. But there's good news: he's not treating you as crustaceans-Scud, not hijacks your brain, and just using your blood. The truth is, if the worms you are not too much, not even particularly notice that something is wrong, but if their number will start to be measured, say, in tens, then brain damage will begin, as the parasites will take a lot of space.

so the worms living in the brains of people exist, but they are not necessarily in control of our behavior. At least not yet. Who knows what's in store for the evolution of tapeworms that infect the human brain?

Cats can drive you crazy

Worms living in the brain, not make you behave unorthodox, but this does not mean that the seizure of the brain does not threaten you. Throughout history, people have frequently manipulated the parasitic organisms.

it Turns out cat feces can hijack your brain. Well, not the excrement, and a tiny organism that lives in them, – Toxoplasma gondii. It is a unicellular organism with a curious life cycle. It all starts when two microbes fall in love with each other and commit "sexual intercourse". The place which they choose for it – the cat's intestine.

As it happens in love stories, born new little microbes, and they go out into the world with the rest of the contents of the intestine. In this case they are packaged in small cysts, which can withstand the cruel world outside of the intestines. They hope that the cat will step in the feces and the cysts will get it in the mouth with food, and then back into the intestine for love.

it is Here that the life cycle of Toxoplasma gondii and becomes interesting. What happens if one swallows another animal, not a cat? Instead of living in abstinence, not multiply, the microbe Toxoplasma gondii falls in on itself and begins to reproduce by cloning. This can cause the animal host as the like flu, the growth of the infection, which is quite safe and is called toxoplasmosis. Usually the symptoms pass and the infected animal (human or other) seems to be completely recovered (although we should note that toxoplasmosis is very dangerous to human fetuses, so pregnant women are advised not to remove the cats). At least it looks like a person or animal has recovered.

In reality, the microbe Toxoplasma gondii is not giving up and still trying to get back in the cat's intestines. He just changes tactics and engages in a guerrilla war. Reprogramming the brain of an unsuspecting owner. Let's say you're a rat infected with the microbe Toxoplasma gondii. Usually you do not like to be around cats. After all, they can to eat you. The truth is, rodents like rats and mice have an innate fear of cats (Zangrossi, File, 1994). Evolution punishes the brave.

This fear is not like the little parasite Toxoplasma gondii, which cats consider their home. What do resourceful parasites? Toxoplasma gondii alters nerve function infected hosts (you) and makes them (you) less fearful in General and forces you to make risky decisions (Webster, 2001). You become braver and less afraid to take risks. The less you worry about cats, the greater the likelihood that they will eat. Bad for you but good for parasites who seek to make a love nest in the cat's intestine. But of course, this will not happen with you if you are not a rodent, but man, right? No.

Although we, the people, and not become food for cats (at least as often as our ancestors) as we just said, people can be infected by Toxoplasma gondii. People with latent toxoplasmosis, like rodents, start to change as a person. They exhibit emotional coldness and reduced avoidance of risk. In fact, they simply cease to worry about risk behaviours.

Joanne Webster, Professor of parasite epidemiology at Imperial College London, in his review (2001) writes that some studies revealed the following: based on questionnaires measuring personality factors, was seen the difference between infected [toxoplasmosis] and uninfected groups. For example, infected men had a lower super-ego and high aspirations. They have, in the opinion of the authors of the study, it was noted pronounced tendency towards rebelliousness, and they were more suspicious, jealous and dogmatic.

We don't know exactly how the microbe contributes to these changes in the behavior of the host. But it is obvious that these changes are associated with changes in the brain. Thus, a microscopic single-celled organism could seize control of our complex nervous activity. Of course, the symptoms of infection with Toxoplasma gondii is not like SDSG. But the infection makes it clear that the external pathogen is quite capable to capture our brains and change our behavior.

the Passage from the book of Timothy Vershinina and Bradley Voytek "the Brain of a zombie. A scientific approach to behavior the walking dead"

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