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This Is Your Brain on Parasites: How Tiny…
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This Is Your Brain on Parasites: How Tiny Creatures Manipulate Our…

by Kathleen McAuliffe

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    Parasite Rex : Inside the Bizarre World of Nature's Most Dangerous Creatures by Carl Zimmer (flying_monkeys)
    flying_monkeys: In the Acknowledgments for This Is Your Brain on Parasites, McAuliffe credits Carl Zimmer as an indirect contributor to her work for penning Paradise Rex, McAuliffe's introduction to parasitic manipulators.
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Fascinating book about the long history of humans and parasites, using many animal examples along the way. We are just beginning to learn the ways that parasites interact with the human brain. Much of the research reviewed in this book is so new that it has yet to have been corroborated by work of multiple researchers, so the conclusions drawn in the book must be taken provisionally. There is no doubt that parasites do affect our brains, the question is by how much.

About the last half of the book looks at the more indirect ways parasites have affected us by focusing on what the author refers to as behavioral immunity, which is the ways we relate to and respond to the world around us that affects the way we behave individually and in groups. Disgust is a the center of behavioral immunity, and it may have shaped human culture and even even human religions. Our human tendencies toward xenophobia and collectivism (and tribalism) may stem from our behavioral immune system. While such theories are somewhat tenuous, they are intriguing to consider. ( )
  bness2 | May 23, 2017 |
I was surprised how much I enjoyed this. McAuliffe provided such interesting cases of parasite manipulations. She gave an excellent glimpse at how difficult parasitologists job can be. I didn't read all at once. I found it was better to read a case or two and mull it over before moving on. It is incredible how tiny creatures work behind the scenes and have such an effect. ( )
  staceyfronczak | Mar 12, 2017 |
A riveting investigation of the myriad ways that parasites control how other creatures - including humans - think, feel, and act.

The scariest book I've read this Halloween season, and it's non-fiction!

Think the science in The Girl With All the Gifts is the stuff of pure make-believe? Think again. Thanks to a parasitic fungus called Ophiocordyceps the "zombie ant" is real. How far of a leap, then, is a "zombie human" controlled by a parasite? Not much of one, I'd posit. Especially after reading about Toxoplasma gondii.

"'Most of us are comfortable with the idea that a painkiller or drug might modify our behavior, but there's something very different about a small parasite - a few hundred or thousand of these single-celled parasites - that's in your brain for your entire life. And because you can't get rid of them and you don't know that they're there, like at what point does all of their influence just become who you are?'" (p. 76)

McAuliffe presents a broad overview of neuroparasitology, from its early days to the latest theories and studies, along with a handful of color photos. The author's own fascination and excitement in her subject adds a fun factor I find lacking in most science books. Yet she doesn't shy away from pointing out weak points or unproven theories.

A book perfect for those mining the facts for creepy crawlies with which to infect their own imagined worlds.

4.5 stars ( )
  flying_monkeys | Oct 17, 2016 |
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To my family, and in loving memory of my sister Sharon McAuliffe, a very talented science writer who died way too young
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0544192222, Hardcover)

Based on a wildly popular Atlantic article: an astonishing investigation into the world of microbes, and the myriad ways they control how other creatures — including humans — act, feel, and think

As we are now discovering, parasites — microbes that cannot thrive and reproduce without another organism as a host — are shockingly sophisticated and extraordinarily powerful. In fact, a plethora of parasites affect our behavior in ways we have barely begun to understand. 
 
In this mind-bending book, McAuliffe reveals the eons-old war between parasites and other creatures that is playing out in our very own bodies. And more surprising still, she uncovers the decisive role that parasites may have played in the rise and demise of entire civilizations. Our obsession with cleanliness and our experience of disgust are both evolutionary tools for avoiding infection, but they evolved differently for different populations. Political, social, and religious differences among societies may be caused, in part, by the different parasites that prey on us. In the tradition of Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel and Neil Shubin’s Your Inner Fish, This Is Your Brain on Parasites is both a journey into cutting-edge science and a revelatory examination of what it means to be human.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 15 Feb 2016 21:07:11 -0500)

"Based on a wildly popular Atlantic article: an astonishing investigation into the world of microbes, and the myriad ways they control how other creatures -- including humans -- act, feel, and think As we are now discovering, parasites -- microbes that cannot thrive and reproduce without another organism as a host -- are shockingly sophisticated and extraordinarily powerful. In fact, a plethora of parasites affect our behavior in ways we have barely begun to understand. In this mind-bending book, McAuliffe reveals the eons-old war between parasites and other creatures that is playing out in our very own bodies. And more surprising still, she uncovers the decisive role that parasites may have played in the rise and demise of entire civilizations. Our obsession with cleanliness and our experience of disgust are both evolutionary tools for avoiding infection, but they evolved differently for different populations. Political, social, and religious differences among societies may be caused, in part, by the different parasites that prey on us. In the tradition of Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel and Neil Shubin's Your Inner Fish, This Is Your Brain on Parasites is both a journey into cutting-edge science and a revelatory examination of what it means to be human."--… (more)

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