Monday, April 16, 2007

Risky behaviour and parasites

Sometimes as an academic you come across an article or blog post that makes you think "it all fits" or "there must be a paper in here somewhere".

With the current trend for "field experiments" from John List and company this strikes me as an interesting, if not dangerous, experiment. As someone interested in risk and why some people are more risk averse than others ceteris paribus, this might be the answer.

Some of the new economics coming out of the US looking at brain scans and the propensity to gamble is particularly interesting. Maybe during these scans they need to look out for this little fella.

H/T: Development Crossing

Sneaky Parasite Can Influence You

When you see a cat pounce on a rat, it seems like a classic story about a predator and prey.

But scientists have recently discovered that sometimes the main actor is actually a tiny parasite in the rat's brain that makes the normally fearful rat think "oh how nice" when it smells a cat.

The parasite wants the rat to be caught by the cat because it needs to be in the cat's stomach to reproduce. New research sheds light on how this surprising little organism can manipulate a rodent to do its will. There has been speculation that human behavior may also be affected in some ways, and correlations have been found between latent Toxoplasma (parasite) infections and various characteristics such as increased risk taking behavior, slower reactions, feelings of insecurity, and neuroticism.

Could this genetic adaptation caused by parasite used against humans?

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