A mind-controlling parasite found in cat feces may give people the courage they need to become entrepreneurs, researchers reported Tuesday.
They found that people who have been infected with the Toxoplasma gondii parasite are more likely to major in business and to have started their own businesses than non-infected people.
The parasite, which makes rodents unafraid of cats, may be reducing the fear of failure in people, Stefanie Johnson of the University of Colorado and colleagues said.
They haven’t actually shown that. But toxoplasma does get into the brain, and it’s been linked to a variety of mental effects in mice and people alike. And fear of failure could be a good thing, Johnson said.
Toxoplasmosis has been linked to a greater risk of “car accidents, mental illness, neuroticism, drug abuse and suicide,” Johnson and her colleagues wrote in their paper, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
It might be affecting message-carrying chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters, or hormones such as testosterone, they wrote.
In particular, scientists have studied whether the parasite might increase risk-taking behavior.
Johnson is an associate professor of management at the University of Colorado and often told her students about the odd effects of the parasite, which travels to the brains of rodents and causes them to lose their innate fear of the smell of cat urine.