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Publisher's Summary

A riveting investigation of the myriad ways that parasites control how other creatures - including humans - think, feel, and act.
These tiny organisms can live only inside another animal, and, as McAuliffe reveals, they have many evolutionary motives for manipulating their host's behavior. Far more often than appreciated, these puppeteers orchestrate the interplay between predator and prey. With astonishing precision, parasites can coax rats to approach cats, spiders to transform the patterns of their webs, and fish to draw the attention of birds that then swoop down to feast on them.
We humans are hardly immune to the profound influence of parasites. Organisms we pick up from our own pets are strongly suspected of changing our personality traits and contributing to recklessness, impulsivity - even suicide. Microbes in our gut affect our emotions and the very wiring of our brains. Germs that cause colds and flu may alter our behavior even before symptoms become apparent.
Parasites influence our species on the cultural level, too. As McAuliffe documents, a subconscious fear of contagion impacts virtually every aspect of our lives, from our sexual attractions and social circles to our morals and political views. Drawing on a huge body of research, she argues that our dread of contamination is an evolved defense against parasites - and a double-edged sword. The horror and revulsion we feel when we come in contact with people who appear diseased or dirty helped pave the way for civilization but may also be the basis for major divisions in societies that persist to this day.
In the tradition of Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel and Neil Shubin's Your Inner Fish, This Is Your Brain on Parasites is both a journey into cutting-edge science and a revelatory examination of what it means to be human.
©2016 Kathleen McAuliffe (P)2016 Audible, Inc.
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By Colin Mc on 10-25-16

A parasitologist view of the world

Most people with science focuses will tend to put their focus on a pedestal, and tend to lean towards it being the most important facet of most situations-microbiologists being no exception or course. This book is similar-while its not noxious, as its focus is on parasites they tend to be on that pedestal which is fair enough. I do find some explanations here interesting, and some delving into certain parasites is appreciated but as a science major I felt like it was lacking in depth on certain topics that I wanted to see more detail on, but C'est la vie. The microbiome section is a bit standard, but theres some good information regarding most of the other stuff-even if some of the conclusions in the book are a bit too uncautious in their assertion. Enjoyed it regardless, worth a look especially if you're not as into science and want to know about parasites.

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7 of 7 people found this review helpful

3 out of 5 stars
By mdkoci on 01-02-17

Entertaining but questionable studies

What would have made This Is Your Brain on Parasites better?

Less reliance on unrepeated or unrepeatable studies and more focus on those with more substantial evidence for, OR at least disclaimers when using some studies as being more fringe.

Would you ever listen to anything by Kathleen McAuliffe again?


Which character – as performed by Nicol Zanzarella – was your favorite?


What character would you cut from This Is Your Brain on Parasites?


Any additional comments?

This is an entertaining and interesting book, but readers need to recognize it is a mash up of scientifically accepted and experimentally verified phenomenon and several observations or theories that might not prove to be true but they are all presented in a way that gives them equal weight. Reader beware

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13 of 15 people found this review helpful

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