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This Is Your Brain on Parasites: How Tiny Creatures Manipulate Our Behavior and Shape Society
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This Is Your Brain on Parasites: How Tiny Creatures Manipulate Our Behavior and Shape Society

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  1,365 ratings  ·  212 reviews
Based on a wildly popular  Atlantic  article: an astonishing investigation into the world of microbes, and the myriad ways they control how other creatures — including humans — act, feel, and think

As we are now discovering, parasites — microbes that cannot thrive and reproduce without another organism as a host — are shockingly sophisticated and extraordinarily powerful.
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published June 7th 2016 by Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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3.95  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,365 ratings  ·  212 reviews

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May 21, 2016 rated it really liked it

Imagine a disease causing organism - like a parasite - that needs to pass from one host to another to survive and reproduce? How does it make sure it gets where it wants to go? Well one way is to manipulate the behavior of its host. Certain parasitic liver flukes (flatworms) for example - which reproduce in sheep - must pass from sheep, to snails, to ants, and back to sheep to complete their entire complicated life cycle. These clever flukes have found a way to induce infected ants to forego ret
Jun 30, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: netgalley
My thanks to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for an eARC copy of this book to read and review.

I just don't know if I can trust any of the information in this book or not. First of all, parasites play a part in about the first half of the book, then the author goes into the gut biome and how society might have been shaped due to communicable disease, which while interesting, takes the focus off of parasites, which due to the title, this reader assumed would be the star of the show. Not e
Science (Fiction) Comedy Horror and Fantasy Geek/Nerd
The mechanisms in animals and humans are known. Only who says that we know all of them?

Please note that I put the original German text at the end of this review. Just if you might be interested.

There are cases of parasitism that are apparent. When prions capture the brain of cattle in the form of BSE, and no one trusts the steak anymore. When the notorious mushroom Ophiocordyceps unilateralis captures ants and lets them sprout cute, fashionable but deadly hats out of their heads.
Of the apparent,
Caro the Helmet Lady
So this was really interesting and pretty much a fast read. It started with parasites and ended with, uh, social parasitology? I hope I can call it this way?

The main idea of the book is as suggested by author - parasites, big and small with their beyond understanding biochemical genetic mechanisms of adaptation/manipulation can force us into things we don't really want to do, but that are convenient/life saving for them. And it's not just toxoplasmosis that makes us fall for cats (that's a blasp
This started out pretty interesting, focusing on Toxoplasma gondii and rabies and other microorganisms that affect human behavior in completely bizarre ways. But much of the second half was devoted to sociology about parasites - surmising, for instance, that some forms of bigotry can be traced to a fear of contagion. That's interesting, I guess, but pretty simplistic and speculative. And there were bizarre detours into the psychology of disgust and such random topics as trypophobia (fear of clus ...more
Atila Iamarino
Mar 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Saudades desses livros de bio integrativa interessantes. Kathleen McAuliffe faz um passeio por várias doenças famosas por manipularem o cérebro dos hospedeiros (como Cordyceps e toxoplasmose). Mas trazendo uma série de descobertas novas, a bioquímica que foi descoberta por trás dessas interações e consequências enormes, de sociais a evolutivas da nossa convivências com essas doenças.

Fácil, fácil entre os livros biológicos que mais gostei de ler, pelas curiosidades, coisas nojentas e pela abrangê
Jun 12, 2016 rated it did not like it
This book is an excellent example of why journalists shouldn't write about parasites. She lost me in chapter 2 when she repeatedly called Guinea Worm a tapeworm! (It's a nematode just to set the record straight.)
This one is a must read, especially for fans of writers like Mary Roach. Lots of science, but broken down to be understood by the layman. Truly fascinating subject.
Jul 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Parazitai gyveno su žmonėmis VISĄ LAIKĄ ir gali labai stipriai paveikti žmones tiek individualiai, tiek ištisų visuomenių lygiu. Parazitai man labai įdomu, o žmonės ir visuomenės - nelabai, todėl galėčiau sakyti, kad labai patiko tik dalis šios knygos.

Kaip pop-science knyga ji yra tikrai gerai parašyta (ir tų aprašymų apie mokslininko gyvą žvilgsnį ar plaukų spalvą kuo toliau, tuo mažiau buvo) ir, manau, turėtų patikti žmonėms, kurie mėgsta labai bendras, "daug ką paaiškinančias" mokslo populiar
Aug 07, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nature-science
As I'm finding with most non-fiction books of late, the author entirely loses their theseis somewhere around halfway through the book.
Here we go through the interesting readings of stomach bacteria and toxoplasmosis...then things radically shift to the subject of "disgust". While still somewhat interesting (the birth of religion as seeing these things as punishment, etc) is comepletely off topic.
What is it "editors" do again?
Feb 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Are you interested in learning about zombified cockroaches? How about suicidal ants? Or maybe cat-loving mice? Round worms in human, anyone? If you answered yes any of these question or you just want to find out what is going on inside your body, read This Is Your Brain On Parasites. You will be informed, maybe entertained, and likely creeped out.

McAuliffe opens the book with an Introduction on how she stumbled on this topic. It was an Internet post about a single-celled parasite that targets ra
Dave Reynolds
Feb 24, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: audio
Starts off well - some very interesting observations - but the author's blanket statements about humans vs animals (as if we're not animals) are annoying. Animals do, humans might; animals can't, humans can. Animals don't know they are going to die? Animals don't have imaginations? Seriously?! The title is misleading too, since the overall premise seems to be that animals brains are affected by parasites - but our oh-so-special human brains only might be.
Jun 16, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: biology
Extremely broad approach to parasites.

This author examines viruses and genes as parasites, as well as tiny creatures we easily identify as parasites. She looks at how all types of parasites might have contributed to building animal bodies and even the cultures in which we live. McAuliffe also provides some of the most up to date information on gut microbes and disgust research.
Aug 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016, own-audio
Totally fascinating book. This really is the current cutting edge of biological and evolutionary sciences. I feel so lucky to live in a time where we have wonderful minds figuring this stuff out and then sharing with us.

I wish daily we put more of our world's wealth into pure scientific inquiry.
I have been studying parasites and their effects on the human body for years. I guess you could say I’m a parasitologist. This book was very interesting and went to many areas I hadn’t thought of. I appreciated the scientific findings as well. The author definitely used a lot of speculation, and towards the end, I felt she discredited herself a bit with her saying that we are more molecules than human. I also didn’t agree with many things she posited. Morality can be affected by parasites, but w ...more
Aug 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating book! Tons of interesting information that made me very eager to see where the study of parasites will lead us in the future. Admittedly, a lot of extrapolations and assumptions were made in the book but I think that was part of what made it interesting. As parasitology is still a relatively new study, there exists a wide variety of possibilities for the field to take us and I think the book does a great job in showing how important parasitology can be for us. The author herself admi ...more
Tim Poston
Jun 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
A great book near the beginning. As it approaches the end, about humans and human society, it gets more speculative -- and more parochial. Maybe Americans would never buy a dark toothpaste, but what about Indians who brush with charcoal? And when it comes to food, beetroot and chocolate are pretty dark! The later chapters reveal more about the current preoccupations of non-Trump America than anything deep or lasting about our brains.
Jul 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: black
So, midway through the first chapter of this book, I realized that it was probably going to creep me out. Moreover, I resolved to only read it during the daytime, as it was definitely not good preparation for a trip to dreamland. Forget about cinematic zombies and vampires, this book has the real thing, across multiple species, and raises some awkward questions about humans and free will. Not good topics for late night thinking.

The author began with an article on toxoplasmosis gondii, a parasite
Polenth Blake
This is a science non-fiction book, looking at the ways parasites manipulate behaviour. A broad definition of parasite is used, which includes parasitoids. It also looks at things like behaviours that have evolved to avoid getting infected.

Many parasites are talked about in detail, including how the parasite was researched. Though not intended as the book's main theme, that part was also of interest. It shows how science is often hampered by who can get funding or fund their own research.

The sty
Sep 13, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
The human body contains about 100 trillion cells, but roughly 90% of those are from bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms. This book surveys how parasites, pathogens and viruses affect their hosts and those that move between species - like rats who love cats and zombie ants.

The first third of the book focuses on those species hopping parasites, including those like Toxoplasma gondii which can end up in humans. The text then moves into other pathogens, viruses, and our gut biome. Each proble
Really entertaining and informative book about how parasites and other microorganisms (especially gut microbiota) can affect human/animal behavior. I remember reading the author's article in The Atlantic years ago about Toxoplasmosis and risk-tasking behavior, and am super-glad she decided to expand it into a full-fledged book.

The last couple of chapters jumped the shark a little with some ideas about how some religious practices and racism may have evolved from parasite-avoiding behaviors (Ma
Paul Conroy
Dec 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating read!

How parasites can influence your personality and behavior and that of groups and nations.
Would have liked a little more science details.
Jul 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Did you ever have the feeling that something or someone was controlling you, or trying to do so? Don't feel alone -- and you are probably not crazy. Parasites -- whether viruses, bacteria, larger parasites such as the malaria trypanosome, or fungi -- will do anything to get transferred from one host to a new one, and if that involves influencing the host's behavior to facilitate that transfer, it evolves a way of doing so. That control is often frighteningly sophisticated, and it affect both min ...more
Romina Di Fluri
Sep 07, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Rating: 3.5

This is most definitely not my usual kind of book. Prior to reading “This is Your Brain On Parasites” I’ve always been drawn to richly imagined fantasy books, or anything fictional, really. I knew I had to take a step into the world of nonfiction for English class anyway- no matter my preference of genre. I’m glad I finally gave non-fiction a chance as “This Is Your Brain On Parasites” was not only interesting but educational. I’d just like to point out that as I’m not a scientist, th
Scott Wozniak
Nov 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Fascinating book on how parasites affect the behaviors of their hosts, especially how they affect the brains. Warning: it's 80% real science and 20% wild speculation or exaggeration (which the author actually admits at the end of the book). So take this with a grain of salt, so to speak. But it will make you think differently, and that's one of the things I look for in a good book.
DeAnna Knippling
Nov 04, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
A broad (very broad) overview of how parasites may be affecting life on earth, including areas of human cognition that we normally think of as being independent from biological influences.

I felt like I wanted a book that was written about fifty years in the future, after a lot more research had been done, verified, etc. I can't speak to whether any of what was here was accurate, but it did feel like there was too much emphasis on the possibilities of humans being influenced by parasites versus w
This is a book full of disclaimers. The disciplines it introduces here are the new kids on the block. That is because parasitology's forays into behaviour science, psychology, sociology or neuroscience almost always try to create theories that explain things which other theories have already explained with a relative measure of success anyway.

Disclaimers aside, science and health journalist Kathleen McAuliffe's book is an up to date overview of the past and current research done in fields which
Oct 02, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
More than a 3, and I could revise potentially upon a re-read, which I sort of feel it deserves.
The last three words of the title "and Shape Society" were basically lost on me, and on some other readers as well, based on the reviews. Consequently, I felt as though it was three very short works, packed into one book. The first was what drew me in, the idea that a parasite, in order to carry out its life cycle, could somehow change the behavior of a host organism to accomplish the goal. Fascinating
Jan 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I received a free copy of the book from Vine program.

At first I was hesitant about selecting the book because of the yuck factor, but I am so glad I decided to read it. While it is not something you will want to read while eating, it was not too gross for me to enjoy. Maybe it is because there is no pictures in the book, so I did not have to visualize the bad things.

The book starts quite slow and whiny about how many scientists did not want to see that parasites do manipulate their hosts, but th
Kate Savage
Jan 29, 2017 marked it as didn-t-finish
A Working Theory on Popular Genres:

1. This year, a publisher's algorithm determines that people will buy this particular formula of a book and some of those people who buy it will even read it.

2. Make as many as possible.

Sub-theory on Science Writing:

A. Because Bill Bryson and Oliver Sacks celebrated quirky scientists, insert whatever cult-of-personality you can find here, even if your scientists are just sort of normal, and the topic they're studying is far more interesting.

B. Because science
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