This Is Your Brain on Parasites by Kathleen McAuliffe

Rating: 4.5 of 5

Synopsis: “A riveting investigation of the myriad ways that parasites control how other creatures – including humans – think, feel, and act.” (source)

My thoughts: The scariest book I’ve read this Halloween season, and it’s non-fiction!

Think the science in The Girl With All the Gifts is the stuff of pure make-believe? Think again. Thanks to a parasitic fungus called Ophiocordyceps the “zombie ant” is real. How far of a leap, then, is a “zombie human” controlled by a parasite? Not much of one, I’d posit. Especially after reading about Toxoplasma gondii.

‘Most of us are comfortable with the idea that a painkiller or drug might modify our behavior, but there’s something very different about a small parasite – a few hundred or thousand of these single-celled parasites – that’s in your brain for your entire life. And because you can’t get rid of them and you don’t know that they’re there, like at what point does all of their influence just become who you are?’

McAuliffe presents a broad overview of neuroparasitology, from its early days to the latest theories and studies, along with a handful of color photos. The author’s own fascination and excitement in her subject adds a fun factor I find lacking in most science books. Yet she doesn’t shy away from pointing out weak points or unproven theories.

A book perfect for those mining the facts for creepy crawlies with which to infect their own imagined worlds.

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(Review cross-posted on LibraryThing and Goodreads.)

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