A mind-controlling parasite found in cat poop could help us face our fears, apparently
In news so wild you’ll have to read this entire post twice, a mind-controlling parasite found in cat poop apparently has the power to help humans overcome their fear of failure. Yes, this is based in science and therefore absolutely a real thing.
The “mind-controlling” parasite, toxoplasma, is found in the cat feces. A new study finds that the parasite makes mice unafraid of cats, which leads researchers to believe it could help give people the courage they need to face their fears and start their own business.
If the word “toxoplasma” sounds familiar, that’s because it is — it’s the same parasite that makes every OB/GYN warn pregnant women against cleaning litter boxes. So if you’re pregnant, your fear of failure is just gonna have to wait.
The research found that people infected with the Toxoplasma gondii parasite are more likely to major in business or have started their own businesses, as opposed to non-infected people. So if you’re feeling like you don’t justifiably compare with your more successful peers — relax! They may have found success, but they may have also found themselves to be infected with cat poop parasites.
The study was conducted by Stefanie Johnson, a management professor at the University of Colorado and her husband, Pieter, a biology professor. They gave a saliva test for antibodies to toxoplasma to approximately 1,500 students and to nearly 200 people attending seminars on how to start your own business.
Overall, 22 percent of the people they tested had antibodies to T. gondii, meaning that they had been infected at some point (OK, how many of you are wondering how the heck to get one of these tests because you’re paranoid you’re infected? *slowly raises hand*). Results found that students who were infected were 1.4 times more likely to be business majors and 1.7 percent more likely to have an emphasis in “management and entrepreneurship.” Among people going to entrepreneurship seminars, infected people were 1.8 times as likely to have started their own businesses.
Naturally, many people were eager to weigh in on this “cat poop phenomenon” on Twitter as the story made the rounds.
Though it’s important to note that while yes, toxoplasma does get into the brain and might make some more, uh, business-minded, it’s also been linked to a variety of mental effects in mice and people alike. Toxoplasmosis has been linked to a greater risk of “car accidents, mental illness, neuroticism, drug abuse and suicide,” researchers wrote.
Johnson says she plans on testing whether successful entrepreneurs are more or less likely to have been infected. Mostly because eliminating the fear of failure doesn’t seem like the best idea — sometimes that fear and level of self-awareness is key. “So what if all the businesses started by toxoplasma-positive people fail? What if that fear was a good thing? We want to know.”
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