Who is in Control?

In order for a society to flourish there is a need for science. For me, thorough scientific knowledge and application are correlated with better standards of living. Science can be  seen as an aid but also a virtue to have within society. It allows individuals to comprehend the world they live in and be able to combat unexpected or expected illnesses, disasters and social pressures.

It falls into the hands of everyone when it comes to who should regulate science. It is outstanding to see volunteers like those who participate in programs such as “Doctors without Borders” and help diagnose others that do not have the equal opportunities of receiving medical care. There are cases as severe as individuals having Cholera and waterborne diseases that happen due to poverty. Programs such as these are the ones that should be funded and those that start at the local level in villages. After programs like these are put into action, the responsibility then falls into the hands of young scientists and experts to inform the general public on even the most minuscule discoveries in science.

In particular ED Yong’s Ted Talk: Zombies Roaches and other Parasite Tales was the most fascinating for me. Although his talk was on something small as parasite behavior it’s interesting to see how a small discovery in something such as parasites can connect to our own very lives as human beings. Yong mentioned that the common answer as in to why animal groups form is in order to seek safety in numbers, make hunting easier or to gathers mates. Many want the clean cut answer that groups form in order to have higher chance of survival which would lead to an increase in fitness. However, this is not always the case. Yong responds with, “…that makes a huge assumption about animal behavior.”  This really resounded with me.  Animals are not always in control of their own actions and that they have something as small as a tapeworm (of a length of 1 mm) in their bodies that has so much control over them. Pretty strong creatures if you ask me.

The tapeworm, specifically, as a parasite is quite the manipulator. It uses its host the shrimp as only a temporary stay granting it a longer life cycle. However, as everything in science there is a cost for this benefit. The tapeworm will  drains its body, castrate it, and make it a bright red color. If this were not enough it will also make shrimp swim in groups. It does this not just for fun but in order to attract the Flamingo. Here we would think that this concept is a sort of reverse predator-prey relationship. We don’t imagine something so diminutive to attack something so big. But it happens.

This lead me to ask what about humans? Is there something controlling us, and if so why is not widely spoken about? It’s chilling to think that a parasite could be defining our human behavior and making us work involuntarily for its own benefit. ED Yong proposes that our mind controller might be Toxo and that it uses dopamine to effect our brain. The effects of Toxo has been studied in rats and its effects could be similar as to what happens to humans when Toxo takes control. Could there be an evolutionary connection between parasites and how we came to be? It is just quite shocking that a parasite knows to use the neurotransmitter: dopamine, a compound that affects our mood and attention, in order to hold us captive. Not only is it a manipulator, it’s quite intelligent too.


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