“Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite found in more than one billion people worldwide, has been shown to inspire neurotic, self-destructive behaviour in rats. The protozoa’s reproductive cycle depends on infecting cats, which it does by getting them to eat rats and mice in whose brains the parasite commonly resides. When the parasite infects a rat or mouse, it increases dopamine levels in its host, inspiring it to wander around recklessly in a way more likely to attract the attention of cats; the mice and rats also become attracted to the small of cat urine an odor that, under normal circumstances, causes them to flee or freeze. “Fatal feline attraction” is the name for this phenomenon. In people, the presence of toxoplasma gondii has been linked to schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder, poor attention and reaction times, and greater likelihood of car accidents.”
From ‘Cooked’ by Michael Pollan
All of which might explain the behaviour of this vole, which TBH and I encountered back in June, and which had us puzzled and enchanted in equal measure because of its apparent lack of fear of our presence.
The quote might seem like an odd paragraph to find in a book ostensibly about food, but it’s from a footnote and is backing up the assertion that it’s possible that the microbiota in our bodies might influence our moods and even our mental health. The book is absolutely fascinating and I heartily recommend it anyone with an interest in food (i.e. everyone,surely?) – bit late for your Christmas lists I know.