Now a new scientific research paper in the Journal of Experimental Biology has a brilliant analysis:
HOW PERNICIOUS PARASITES TURN VICTIMS INTO ZOMBIESMitt Romney ran a fine campaign, but he did not hijack anyone's nervous system, and he only appealed to vertebrates.
Parasites come in all shapes and forms. ... But there is one group of parasites that is particularly pernicious – they are the parasites that hijack their host’s nervous system, turning their victims into zombies. ‘The fact that parasites can so efficiently alter host behaviour is fascinating’, says JEB Editor Michael Dickinson, from the University of Washington, USA, adding, ‘There is something horrifying and wondrous about a tiny “implant” being able to control such a large animal machine’. What is more, it appears that these minute manipulators can have a significant, and often under-appreciated, impact on ecology, physiology and evolution, orchestrating the behaviour of vertebrates and invertebrates alike.
Update: The NY Times has picked up on this story:
“The knowledge that parasites can manipulate their hosts is old. The new part is how they do it,” ...I am afraid that thorny-headed worms and zombies may be sending us to our doom.
Other parasites manipulate their hosts by altering the neurotransmitters in their brains. This kind of psychopharmacology is how thorny-headed worms send their hosts to their doom.