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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Is Your Cat Making You Crazy?/Sarah Assassin?

I'm OK today. Dinner last night with Carla at Stained Glass.  It was really nice and cheered me. Weird though that I always get seated at the same table.  She's amazing - a powerful woman, energetic, positive, results oriented.

Today I'm still thinking about how cool our brains are, how there is so much we still don't know.  I've had fire on my mind.  Last night I dreamed of a huge city fire and defying police orders and going back into my building to get Madeleine and the two cats, cutting it very close.  This morning I thought of something that happened this last Christmas that makes me wonder why I'm wired differently from most everyone else.  I was at a Christmas party and there was a large screen TV that everyone was watching with a football game on it.  A woman sauntered in front of the screen and to everyone's horror she was on fire.  Her very long scarf that was flipped over her shoulder and draped long past her knees was ablaze and like a dynamite fuse the fire was racing up her back, consuming the scarf.   Everyone screamed.  No one did anything.  She thought the screaming was because of the football game and she was totally unaware that she was on fire.   Of the people who saw, I was one of the furthest away, but I leaped from the couch and in a flash I was on her.  I'm told I ripped the scarf from her just before the flames reached her hair that looked to be oiled.

And I'd like to say that I weighed the wisdom of my actions and decided to take action regardless of any danger to myself, but it wasn't like that at all.   It was reptilian, just instinct, just impulse.  I'm wired with a trigger finger for action.  Danger=Sarah in Motion.  And sometimes it's not good, like when the 2 lb kitten bit my foot and drew blood and without thought I smacked it with a brush I was using on my daughter's hair.  The kitten was I think concussed, there was some staggering and throwing up as I remember.   I was almost a kitten killer.  But there was also the time when I grabbed a pick pocket-er on a bus and another time when I rushed to an old man who fell while everyone else walked past him.   My siblings knew not to startle me (no boos while springing from behind a door).   If they did I would grab them by the throat and throttle them.

There is this scientist who has witnessed a change in his personality over the years and like me he has lost his sense of caution.  He describes how he now just walks into traffic, assuming safety, sure the cars will adjust.  He's got a bizarre theory about why this has happened to him, a theory that is only now starting to be taken seriously.  He says he has been infected by a parasite and that it has taken up residence in his brain and has altered his behavior over a period of time.   The parasite is the toxoplasma microbe, that only replicates in cats’ guts.   It's the reason that pregnant women are told not to clean cat boxes during pregnancy.  It's known that "a woman who becomes infected during pregnancy can transmit the disease to the fetus, resulting in severe brain damage in the baby - or even death.  In adults the disease causes flu-like symptoms - and those with a suppressed immune system can become seriously ill with complications such as encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) - but many carrying the latent disease appear to have no symptoms. However, once inside an animal or human host, the parasite then needs to get back into the cat, as that is the only place where it can sexually reproduce."  

He goes on to say that he's been tested positively for the parasite  (one out of 5 people have it) and claims that over the years his personality has changed, "leading him to behave in strange, often self-destructive ways".  He cites his walking in traffic, openly criticizing the Communists in Czechoslovakia which was a stupid thing to do and even feeling totally calm when there was gunfire while everyone around him freaked.  

His research shows evidence that the parasite is doing mischief in affected brains and manipulating the production of dopamine (dopamine again!  damn dopamine!)  Dopamine is a chemical that carries messages in the brain controlling aspects of movement, cognition and behavior and can trigger schizophrenia and other bipolar disorders.  Sure enough there seems to be a higher incidence of toxoplasmosis among schizophrenics than the general population!

I think I must have parasite mischief going on in my brain.  I've had cats my whole life and I was brought up in an unhygienic house.  Bet you anything I'd test positive. I am strangely fearless.  Just recently I laughed with a friend and told him that I always thought I'd make a good CIA agent - that if my country came to me and said there was a foreign despot who needed eliminating but that they needed an unlikely assassin to get close to him - I would be their "man".  We joked that I could be sent in as a French-singing, knitting chanteuse with sharpened, poisoned knitting needles!

All for today.  We'll talk more about wonderful brains as my research continues.  Knowledge is power and I for one don't want to be controlled by something I don't understand.   Your challenge today could be to read the entire article.  Here's the link. Is Your Cat Making you crazy?


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