Warning - Disturbing content.
You guys remember that scene in Hannibal where our titular cannibal eats a brain straight from the source? It's sautéed in shallots and white wine, but you get the picture. The thing is, we don't need uncharacteristically charismatic humans to achieve that, when there are a host of parasites that can do it instead. Not only do they eat your brains, they control it as well. Check it.
1. Naegleria fowleri - Brain eating amoeba that makes you speak gibberish and hallucinate.
Found in warm and stagnant bodies of fresh water, this organism spends most of its time as a cyst that can survive cold, heat, and dry conditions.In case you end up taking a sip from this body of water however, the cyst transforms and goes straight for the brain. Once its burrowed into the brain tissue, it sprouts a 'sucking apparatus' that results in the victim initially feeling mild discomfort. Then, your sense of taste and smell changes, followed by confusion and hallucinations. As time goes on, you start speaking incoherently, and finally lose consciousness. This happens over a few weeks, before the victim finally dies.
2. Toxoplasma gondii - Makes you take risks more easily and alters behaviour.
Found worldwide, this parasite is capable of infecting virtually any warm-bodied living thing. Notoriously difficult to detect, Toxoplasma gondii has been found to cause numerous adverse pathological behavioral alterations in humans. It can cause altered activity levels, changes in risk behaviors, decreased reaction times, and even lead to schizophrenia.
3. Rabies - Causes a fear of water and puffs of air, hallucinations, and paranoia.
One of the infamous symptoms of rabies is foaming at the mouth, and while this virus is usually associated with dogs and wild animals, it actually causes some terrifying effects in humans. The rabies virus actively seeks out the hippocampus, amygdala and hypothalamus - brain centres that control memory, fear and emotion. This results in an inexplicable fear of water and puffs of air, hallucinations, and a belief that random strangers want to harm you.
4. Trypanosoma - Affects the hypothalamus, results in strange behaviour, odd speech patterns, and intense laziness.
Carried by the tsetse fly and found in the villages of sub-Saharan Africa, this deadly parasite lives and grows in the host’s blood and lymph nodes. Once it matures, the encephalitic stage begins, wherein it attacks the hypothalamus - the part of the brain that regulates our mood and sleep cycle. This causes the host to feel and behave in a strange way, speak bizarrely, and become extremely lazy. As time goes on, the host becomes unresponsive, before falling into a deep sleep from which they never awaken.
This is why you should practise mindfulness. So you can tell when a terrifying parasite is chomping at your neurons.