full transcript

From the Ted Talk by Ed Yong: Zombie roaches and other parasite tales

Unscramble the Blue Letters

How does the parasite control its host in this way? We don't really know. We know that Toxo releases an enzyme that makes diomnpae, a substance involved in reward and mivattoion. We know it tetagrs certain parts of a rodent's brain, including those involved in sexual arousal. But how those pzzlue pecies fit together is not immediately clear. What is clear is that this thing is a single cell. This has no nervous system. It has no consciousness. It doesn't even have a body. But it's manipulating a mammal? We are mammals. We are more intelligent than a mere rat, to be sure, but our brains have the same basic structure, the same types of cells, the same chemicals running through them, and the same parasites. Estimates vary a lot, but some figures sggseut that one in three pelpoe around the world have Toxo in their bniras. Now typically, this doesn't lead to any overt illness. The parasite holds up in a dormant state for a long period of time. But there's some evidence that those people who are carriers score slightly dienfltfery on personality qearuineontiss than other people, that they have a slightly hgehir risk of car accidents, and there's some evidence that people with schizophrenia are more likely to be infected. Now, I think this evidence is still inuncviclsoe, and even among Toxo researchers, opinion is divided as to whether the parasite is truly influencing our behavior. But given the widespread nature of such manipulations, it would be cellomepty implausible for humans to be the only species that weren't similarly affected.

Open Cloze

How does the parasite control its host in this way? We don't really know. We know that Toxo releases an enzyme that makes ________, a substance involved in reward and __________. We know it _______ certain parts of a rodent's brain, including those involved in sexual arousal. But how those ______ ______ fit together is not immediately clear. What is clear is that this thing is a single cell. This has no nervous system. It has no consciousness. It doesn't even have a body. But it's manipulating a mammal? We are mammals. We are more intelligent than a mere rat, to be sure, but our brains have the same basic structure, the same types of cells, the same chemicals running through them, and the same parasites. Estimates vary a lot, but some figures _______ that one in three ______ around the world have Toxo in their ______. Now typically, this doesn't lead to any overt illness. The parasite holds up in a dormant state for a long period of time. But there's some evidence that those people who are carriers score slightly ___________ on personality ______________ than other people, that they have a slightly ______ risk of car accidents, and there's some evidence that people with schizophrenia are more likely to be infected. Now, I think this evidence is still ____________, and even among Toxo researchers, opinion is divided as to whether the parasite is truly influencing our behavior. But given the widespread nature of such manipulations, it would be __________ implausible for humans to be the only species that weren't similarly affected.

Solution

  1. brains
  2. motivation
  3. puzzle
  4. pieces
  5. people
  6. targets
  7. higher
  8. inconclusive
  9. suggest
  10. questionnaires
  11. differently
  12. dopamine
  13. completely

Original Text

How does the parasite control its host in this way? We don't really know. We know that Toxo releases an enzyme that makes dopamine, a substance involved in reward and motivation. We know it targets certain parts of a rodent's brain, including those involved in sexual arousal. But how those puzzle pieces fit together is not immediately clear. What is clear is that this thing is a single cell. This has no nervous system. It has no consciousness. It doesn't even have a body. But it's manipulating a mammal? We are mammals. We are more intelligent than a mere rat, to be sure, but our brains have the same basic structure, the same types of cells, the same chemicals running through them, and the same parasites. Estimates vary a lot, but some figures suggest that one in three people around the world have Toxo in their brains. Now typically, this doesn't lead to any overt illness. The parasite holds up in a dormant state for a long period of time. But there's some evidence that those people who are carriers score slightly differently on personality questionnaires than other people, that they have a slightly higher risk of car accidents, and there's some evidence that people with schizophrenia are more likely to be infected. Now, I think this evidence is still inconclusive, and even among Toxo researchers, opinion is divided as to whether the parasite is truly influencing our behavior. But given the widespread nature of such manipulations, it would be completely implausible for humans to be the only species that weren't similarly affected.

Frequently Occurring Word Combinations

ngrams of length 2

collocation frequency
gordian worm 3
emerald cockroach 3
natural world 2
cockroach wasp 2
sense organ 2

ngrams of length 3

collocation frequency
emerald cockroach wasp 2

Important Words

  1. accidents
  2. affected
  3. arousal
  4. basic
  5. behavior
  6. body
  7. brain
  8. brains
  9. car
  10. carriers
  11. cell
  12. cells
  13. chemicals
  14. clear
  15. completely
  16. consciousness
  17. control
  18. differently
  19. divided
  20. dopamine
  21. dormant
  22. enzyme
  23. estimates
  24. evidence
  25. figures
  26. fit
  27. higher
  28. holds
  29. host
  30. humans
  31. illness
  32. immediately
  33. implausible
  34. including
  35. inconclusive
  36. infected
  37. influencing
  38. intelligent
  39. involved
  40. lead
  41. long
  42. lot
  43. mammal
  44. mammals
  45. manipulating
  46. manipulations
  47. mere
  48. motivation
  49. nature
  50. nervous
  51. opinion
  52. overt
  53. parasite
  54. parasites
  55. parts
  56. people
  57. period
  58. personality
  59. pieces
  60. puzzle
  61. questionnaires
  62. rat
  63. releases
  64. researchers
  65. reward
  66. risk
  67. running
  68. schizophrenia
  69. score
  70. sexual
  71. similarly
  72. single
  73. slightly
  74. species
  75. state
  76. structure
  77. substance
  78. suggest
  79. system
  80. targets
  81. time
  82. toxo
  83. types
  84. typically
  85. vary
  86. widespread
  87. world