Does a common parasite play a role in rage disorder?

Individuals with a psychiatric disorder involving recurrent bouts of extreme, impulsive anger—road rage, for example—are more than twice as likely to have been exposed to a common parasite than healthy individuals with no psychiatric diagnosis.                                

In a study involving 358 adult subjects, a team led by researchers from the University of Chicago found that toxoplasmosis, a relatively harmless parasitic infection carried by an estimated 30 percent of all humans, is associated with intermittent explosive disorder and increased aggression.

The findings are published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry on March 23, 2016.

“Our work suggests that latent infection with the toxoplasma gondii parasite may change brain chemistry in a fashion that increases the risk of aggressive behavior,” said senior study author Emil Coccaro, MD, Ellen. C. Manning Professor and Chair of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience at the University of Chicago.

More information:Emil F. Coccaro et al. Toxoplasma gondii Infection, The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry (2016). DOI: 10.4088/JCP.14m09621 , dx.doi.org/10.4088/JCP.14m09621

Scanning electron micrograph of the protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii, tissue cyst in brain of an infected mouse. Credit: David Ferguson    

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