Feline Elon Musk? A Parasite Found In Cats May Cause Risk-Taking and Entrepreneurial Behavior in Humans

Wednesday, 25 July 2018 - 10:33AM
Weird Science
Wednesday, 25 July 2018 - 10:33AM
Feline Elon Musk? A Parasite Found In Cats May Cause Risk-Taking and Entrepreneurial Behavior in Humans
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Image Credit: Pixabay Composite
Researchers at the University of Colorado have found that exposure to Toxoplasma gondii, a protozoan parasite found in house cats, could increase certain risk-taking behaviors typically associated with entrepreneurship. T. gondii is known for its ability to alter human immune response and has been theorized as a causative factor in certain psychological disorders, including bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. An article posted on the National Institute of Health's website states that up to 50% of the human population may be infected with it, though many cases may be asymptomatic. This is, however, the first time that what have long been assumed to be certain types of personality traits or behaviors in humans have been attributed to infection. 

via GIPHY

The protozoa's most destructive effect is on mice who, once exposed, lose their innate fear of cat urine – thus making them vulnerable to feline predation – and seem to develop impaired working memory. This lack of fear makes them more prone to risk-taking behaviors, hence the hypothesis that risk-averse characteristics in humans may correspond to T. gondii exposure. That's exactly what researchers found... to an extent. 

via GIPHY

The researchers, who published their findings in the The Royal Society's journal, found that a sample of 1495 students who tested positive for T. gondii exposure were "1.4× more likely to major in business and 1.7× more likely to have an emphasis in 'management and entrepreneurship' over other business-related emphases." 

The abstract concludes that "Among professionals attending entrepreneurship events, T. gondii-positive individuals were 1.8× more likely to have started their own business compared with other attendees (n = 197)" and "that infection prevalence was a consistent, positive predictor of entrepreneurial activity and intentions at the national scale, regardless of whether previously identified economic covariates were included."

While these findings are still correlational, they do allude to the possibility of links between different types of infection and behavioral/psychological conditions. They also suggest that your cat may be a great business partner, especially if you plan on going to into the mousing business.

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