Simon MacMichael March 27 2016
Toxoplasmosis more likely to be found in people with intermittent explosive disorder
When tempers get heated on the internet, one way some people try and break the tension is by posting pictures of kittens – but new research suggests that cats or rather a condition, toxoplasmosis, caused by a parasite hosted by them may be behind intermittent explosive disorder (IED), manifestations of which also include so-called road rage.
A study led by Professor Emil Coccaro, chair of the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Neuroscience at the University of Chicago sought to establish whether there was a link between the Toxoplasma gondii parasite (T. gondii) and IED.
It can be transmitted to humans as a result of meat that has not been cooked properly, tainted water or via contact with cat faeces, for example when not washing hands after emptying a litter tray.
It is estimated that as many as one in three people globally may carry the parasite, which does not cause illness but leads to cysts forming on the brain which earlier studies have linked to conditions including suicidal behaviour, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
Humans who have contracted toxoplasmosis have also been found to have slower reaction times and are more likely than average to be involved in road traffic collisions when driving.
Professor Coccaro’s study assessed 358 adults, split into three groups – those who have IED, those with other psychiatric conditions, and a control group comprising people who had never been diagnosed with one.
Published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, it found that people with IED were more than twice as likely as the control group to have toxoplasmosis. Those with other psychiatric conditions also tested higher for it, and in each of the three groups, people with the parasite exhibited more aggressive behaviour.