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Toxoplasmosis, Schizophrenia, and the Crazy Cat Lady

Throughout medical school, parasite infections are a popular exam answer.  With a patient history of changing kitty litter or eating undercooked meat (steak tartare anyone?), Toxoplasmosis is a popular and common parasitic infection.

As a member of the acronym (TORCH) for important congenital infection during pregnancy, medical students and doctors are well aware of the disease caused by this parasite.  Lesser known, are the effects of Toxoplasma gondii on schizophrenia, mental health, and sex drive.

Crazy-cat-lady

Toxoplasmosis, Schizophrenia, and the Crazy Cat Lady.  Is there a connection?

Recently I’ve read/heard two mentions of the effects Toxoplasma gondii has on behavior, particularly with cat owners AKA the ‘Crazy Cat Lady.’  The first, was while listening to the popular podcast Radiolab‘s episode, The Scratch.  The second, was in an article published by the rising media source, Vice News.  Both sources, illuminated the effects of this disease, beyond traditional flu symptoms and congenital effects.

“There is strong psychological resistance to the possibility that human behavior can be influenced by some stupid parasite,” he says. “Nobody likes to feel like a puppet.” – Dr. Jaroslav Flegr

I have always been fascinated with the mysterious Crazy Cat Lady.  Before now, there has never been validity to their strange behavior.  Dr. Jaroslav Flegr, a parasitologist, author of the book Frozen Evolution, and biology professor at Charles University in Prague has recently published research on the effects of Toxoplasmosis on human behavior.  Other renowned scientists such as the neuroendocrinologist Dr. Robert Sapolsky of Standford University and Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, a psychiatrist and executive director at the Stanley Medical Research Institute, have suggested associations between Toxoplasma and mental health disorders.

Science behind the Crazy Cat Lady

toxoplasma_lifecycleSo here’s the scoop on Toxoplasma.  The parasite can only reproduce inside the stomach of a cat, which is then shed through the cat feces.  Small animals consume the cat feces as a nice afternoon snack, then they become the cat’s afternoon snack.  The circle of life.

Here’s the problem/evolutionary genius of Toxoplasma.  Rats know their natural predators and do everything they can to avoid being eaten.  Rats can even smell a near-by cat, but once the parasite enters the rat, the parasitic cysts travel and embed themselves in the brain of the animal, specifically the rat’s amygdala.  The amygdala is considered the seat for basic instinctual emotions such as fear, anxiety, and sexual arousal.  The brilliance of the parasite is this: it crosses the wires of the rat’s brain making the rat attracted to cat urine and the smell of cats (1, 2).  Now the rat seeks out the cat, the cat has a nice snack for dinner, and the parasite is allowed to reproduce again in the cat’s stomach.

Now humans are a “dead end” host for Toxoplasma, but think about its effect in our brain if we happened to ingest this parasite?  What would it do to our amygdala?

Lets discuss the emerging research in this area.

The most interesting emerging research about the behavioral and mental health effect of Toxoplasma is with the disease Schizophrenia. There have been over 54 studies about Toxoplasmosis and schizophrenia, along with other psychoses.  Schizophrenia was rare up until the late 18th century.  Around this time, people started taking cats as pets, which grow throughout the 19th century, along with the incidence of schizophrenia.  Currently, this epidemiological association is only a theory, but a quite interesting one that may have some validity.

Beyond the association of schizophrenia and Toxoplasma, there has been published research on the association of Toxoplasmosis and car accidents.  The research states that, people infected with Toxoplasma are 2-4x more likely of dying in car accidents (3, 4).

The bigger question that comes from this idea is if one parasite can affect our behavior is a way that more or less relinquishes some of our free will, are there other parasite or infection that can produce the same or similar effect?  Research states up to 30-60% of the world could be infected with a toxic parasite that modifies brain activity (5, 6).  And where does this leave us in the question of free will?  We will save these questions for another post.  If you are interested in reading further about free will, check out Sam Harris‘ book Free Will.

For more information on the effect of Toxoplasmosis on the Crazy Cat Lady  follow the links below:

Robert Sapolsky Interview: Toxoplasmosis

Bibliography:

(1) Predator Cat Odors Activate Sexual Arousal Pathways in Brains of Toxoplasma gondii Infected Rats

(2) Behavioral changes induced by Toxoplasma infection of rodents are highly specific to aversion of cat odors

(3) Increased risk of traffic accidents in subjects infected with Toxoplasmosis: a retrospective case-control study

(4) Increased incidence of traffic accidents in Toxoplasma-infected military drivers and protective effect RhD molecule revealed by large-scale prospective cohort study

(5) Effect of Toxoplasma on Human Behavior

(6) Toxoplasma gondii: a potential role in the pathogenesis of psychiatric disorders

Youth (2015) – Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz

I recently watched a Tonight Show episode with Paul Dano (if you don’t know Paul Dano, remember him in There Will Be Blood?)Daniel Day-Lewis Paul dano som spiller rollen som Eli Sunday i There Will be Blood

(I didn’t recognize his name either.)

He was promoting Youth, along with his portrayal of Brian Wilson in Love & Mercy. The clip of Paul in Youth, alongside Michael Caine, sold me. I’ve been craving a good movie to look forward to. Now I can’t wait for Dec. 4th!

Here are some other trailers…

Youth Official International Trailer 1 (2015) – Michael Caine, Paul Dano Drama HD

Youth (2015) – Official International Trailer #2 – Michael Caine Movie HD

Looks like a wonderful story of family and aging with great actors throughout the flick.  Mark Dec. 4th on your calendars and hope your theater shows this movie!

What’s your take?  Will Youth will be good? Leave you comments below.

HeartMath Biofeedback System

Ever heard of it?  Well now you have!

I was first introduced to HeartMath close to 7 years ago. Wow, how time flies! Anyways…

Coherence is the name of the game, especially with HeartMath’s technique and research.  The organization has conducted many well-organized research studies bridging the effect of mindfulness and breathing with a measurable phenomena termed as ‘Heart Rate Variability.’  Heart Rate Variability (HRV) is the described as the change in heart rate per beat.

This measure has been correlated with the balance of the body’s autonomic nervous system.  For example, if the HRV is ‘coherent’ then the nervous system is in a balance state of excitation and relaxation.  If the HRV is incoherent, the nervous system is chaotic, which has been linked to poor health outcomes.

My first JAM Approved product is the Inner Balance Sensor for iOS – Lightning.

Thailand: Land of Smiles

The smell of fish sauce hit my nose as I turned the corner.  Another street market with the aromatic sensations wafting through the air.  We were back on Khao San Road with cheap Thai massage, beer towers, and backpackers for days!

I’ve been to Thailand twice, in 2010 and 2012 and I would go back in a heartbeat.  Police state or not, Thailand is one of my favorite places to be (maybe not in June).

Thailand is the melting pot of Asia with influence from India, China, and the pacific islands.  The food, culture, language, and way of life embody the spirit of Thailand. The curry of Southeast Asia.

Watch for posts related to traveling to Thailand, best hostels, restaurants, and destinations.  Stay posted!  Stay curious!

Type II Partnerships

I’ve been reading about Multi-sectoral Partnerships (MSPs) and this topic emerged.  Very interested, high level structure shift in how international organizations collaborate.

Type II partnerships were developed at the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002. Arising in opposition to the state-centred eco-governmentality of previous approaches to sustainable development policy, the partnerships facilitate the inclusion of private and civil actors into the management of sustainable development. The partnerships are employed alongside traditional intergovernmental mechanisms in order to effectively implement the United Nations' Agenda 21 and Millennium Development Goals, particularly at sub-national level. Although widely acknowledged as one of the most innovative and effective developments in global environmental governance in recent years, the partnerships have faced criticism due to fears of a lack of accountability, and the risk that they may exacerbate inequalities of power between Northern and Southern states. Despite these reservations, there is a general consensus among state and non-governmental actors that Type II partnerships are a significantly progressive step in global environmental governance in general, and sustainable development discourse in particular.[1]

Background and development

First proposed at the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002, Type II partnerships are characterised by collaborations between national or sub-national governments, private sector actors and civil society actors, who form voluntary transnational agreements in order to meet specific sustainable development goals.[2] The Johannesburg negotiations also produced so-called Type I outcomes referred to under the umbrella of a Global Deal, a series of legally binding intergovernmental commitments designed to aid states in the implementation of sustainable development goals.[3] However, during the discussions preceding the summit, a growing consensus emerged among the actors involved that traditional intergovernmental relations were no longer sufficient in the management of sustainable development, and consequently the talks began to incorporate suggestions for increasingly decentralised and participatory approaches.[4] Considered to be one of the most innovative and celebrated outcomes of the 2002 summit, the partnerships were created as a means by which to further implement the sustainable development goals set out in the Agenda 21 action plan, particularly those objectives aimed at the local and regional level, as traditional Type I intergovernmental strategies were deemed unlikely to effectively achieve lower level implementation of the Agenda 21 plan.[5]

The Johannesburg negotiations concluded that Type II partnerships must meet seven key criteria: i) they should be voluntary and based on shared responsibility, ii) they must complement, rather than substitute, intergovernmental sustainable development strategies, and must meet the agreed outcomes of the Johannesburg summit, iii) they must consist of a range of multi-level stakeholders, preferably within a given area of work, iv) they must ensure transparency and accountability, v) they must produce tangible results, vi) the partnership must be new, and adequate funding must be available, and vii) a follow-up process must be developed. If these requirements were successfully fulfilled, it was hoped that Type II partnerships could create a fundamental shift in sustainable development discourse, leading to an increasingly participatory, bottom-up method of governing the issue.[5]

Implementation and management

Following the Johannesburg summit, the United Nations Commission for Sustainable Development was granted responsibility for the management of Type II partnerships as its mandate and focus were considered most appropriate to the supervision of the partnerships. The UNCSD was created following the 1992 Rio summit with the sole mandate of overseeing the implementation of Agenda 21 and the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, a focus which made the UNCSD highly amenable to the management of Type II agreements. The UNCSD supervises the 300+ Type II partnerships formed as a result of the summit, ensuring that the partnerships continue to implement the sustainable development goals agreed at Johannesburg.[6]

An example of one of the larger partnerships supervised by the UNCSD is the Global Water Partnership, a network of over 2,300 global partners composed of organisations including UN agencies, governments of developed and developing countries, development banks, research institutions, NGOs and private actors. The organisation aims to diffuse information regarding water management to stakeholders at all levels, and assists countries in the development of water management strategies at the local, national and global level, increasing the capacity of developing nations to manage water supplies in the long term.[7]

Role in environmental governance

Transition from government to governance

“This Summit will be remembered not for the treaties, commitments, or eloquent declarations it produced, but for the first stirrings of a new way of governing the global commons, the beginnings of a shift from the stiff formal waltz of traditional diplomacy to the jazzier dance of improvisational solution oriented partnerships that may include non-government organizations, willing governments and other stakeholders.” World Resources Institute, 2002[8]

The dominance of Type II partnerships as a primary outcome of the Johannesburg summit represented a fundamental shift in the governing of sustainable development; a transition from the top-down, government-centred method favoured by the Brundtland Report and at the 1992 Rio summit, to a collaborative, multi-stakeholder approach which acknowledged the importance of the economic and social expertise of non-governmental actors in sustainable development initiatives. Immediately prior to the summit, then- UN Secretary General Kofi Annan predicted that whilst governments would be responsible for the creation of a common plan of action for sustainable development, the most significant and powerful agents of change to emerge from the Johannesburg negotiations would be Type II partnerships, through which the UN hoped to harness the technological, financial and scientific resources of partners involved in the agreements, reinvigorating the organisation's pursuit of sustainable development.[3]

The UN guidelines for Type II partnerships specified that the agreements should be complementary to, not an alternative to, intergovernmental action plans for sustainable development. As opposed to developing the partnerships as a method of 'governing without government', the agreements were designed to govern alongside traditional government approaches. Rather than treating Type II partnerships as a panacea for sustainable development, it was hoped that such participatory multi-stakeholder governance mechanisms would increase the flexibility and enhance the implementation of sustainable development policy in collaboration with states and international organisations. After the Johannesburg summit, the concept of environmental governance was no longer understood as a legalistic function performed solely by governments, but rather as a collaborative, informal approach to the management of environmental issues, involving both state and non-governmental actors. This new understanding demonstrates that the changing approach to sustainable development which arose from the Johannesburg summit influenced a much wider shift in global environmental governance.[1]

Competing rationalities of government

Within a Foucauldian context, the Type I and Type II arguments presented in the summit negotiations represent two fundamentally opposing rationalities of government. The interventionist, state-centric approach to sustainable development favoured by advocates of the Global Deal represents a rationality of government which Foucault[9] identified as bio-politics; the application of political power in an attempt to control or modify life processes. Such an approach to the pursuit of sustainable development offers little opportunity for participation by private or civil actors, in direct contrast to the multi-stakeholder premise of Type II partnerships. The eco-governmental, disciplinary ideas conveyed in the Global Deal suggest that the Type I approach typifies the centralised command-and-control method favoured by traditional government, whereas the decentralised, voluntary nature of Type II partnerships demonstrates an advanced liberal governmentality which empowers non-state actors to undertake responsibility for the governing of sustainable development, an approach which is representative of the participatory, multi-stakeholder methods by which governance is characterised.[3] The eventual dominance of Type II partnerships in the outcomes of the Johannesburg summit therefore symbolises a wider shift in the understanding of the purposes, ends and means of government in relation to sustainable development and environmental governance.

However, Mert[10] questions the compatibility of partnerships with the global governance of sustainable development. The partnerships represented a point of intersection between three previously separate political discourses; participatory democracy, private governance, and sustainable development, altering the dynamics of global environmental governance processes. The shift towards voluntary mechanisms as opposed to international regulation could prove problematic as legally binding frameworks are sometimes the most appropriate solution to the governance of environmental problems. A hegemonic approach to sustainable development discourse could demonstrate greater effectiveness in the management of the issue than a fragmented, partnership-driven approach which could lead to inconsistent and conflicting management of such a global issue.[10]

Transnational governance networks

Type II partnerships exemplify a growing reliance on public-private-civil co-operation in environmental governance. The architects of the summit placed an emphasis on discussions which would encourage the creation of multi-stakeholder partnerships with the objective of fulfilling UN sustainable development goals, acknowledging that traditional intergovernmental agreements were inadequate to sufficiently promote sustainable development.[11] Furthermore, state actors were notoriously unwilling to improve international environmental co-operation prior to the Johannesburg summit, leaving those who sought a positive outcome to the WSSD to search for alternative solutions which incorporated a broader variety of actors.[12] Type II partnerships emerged as the dominant outcome of the Johannesburg summit, highlighting their importance as agents of change in the achievement of sustainable development. The partnerships were considered by advocates to be representative of a new era of environmental governance, characterised by collaborative decision-making and shared responsibility between public, private and civil actors in the management of transnational public issues.[13]

The development of Type II partnerships marked the emergence of a broader phenomenon within environmental governance- the introduction of transnational governance networks in the management of global environmental issues. Transnational governance networks combine actors from the public, private and civil sectors in the pursuit of common practices and ideas.[12] The role of networks of private and civil actors in transboundary communication is not novel to the academic community; however, the emphasis on transnational public-private-civil networks as mechanisms for achieving sustainable development during the Johannesburg negotiations led to recognition of the ability of such networks to integrate private and civil actors into the global environmental governance process.[14]

Transnational governance networks address a number of shortcomings in traditional state-centred approaches to the management of transboundary issues such as sustainable development. They can diffuse information to the public perhaps more effectively than governments or international organisations, particularly when such information requires a degree of technical expertise to deliver, such as the transfer of specialised knowledge from the private sector to industry groups regarding sustainable business practices. They can also facilitate the implementation of global management strategies at the local level, and they may potentially close the participation gap in global environmental governance by involving private and civil actors in decision-making processes.[15]

Reframing of sustainable development discourse

The Johannesburg summit represented a further shift in the governing of sustainable development; rather than considering environmental issues in isolation, as had previously been common practice within sustainable development policy, the Johannesburg negotiations concluded that a reframing of sustainable development discourse, which re-conceptualised sustainable development as a dynamic interaction between three interdependent pillars- society, environment and economy- was necessary in order to pursue a more holistic ideal of sustainable development. This reframing of sustainable development required Type II partnerships to address a broader concept of sustainable development, and consequently objectives such as poverty alleviation and community involvement feature alongside environmental issues in the objectives of the partnerships.[3]

Issues

Imbalances of power

Although designed to incorporate a broader range of social, environmental and economic perspectives into the environmental governance process and to facilitate the inclusion of actors from all levels into decision-making, the extent to which imbalances of power between actors involved in the partnerships affects their implementation has provoked concern among their critics.[11]

Brinkerhoff and Brinkerhoff[16] theorised that an effective partnership must fulfil two essential criteria: mutuality- interdependence and equality between partners, and organisational identity- the equal maintenance of each partner’s missions and goals. In the event of a partnership between Northern and Southern actors, for example, the North will inevitably contribute greater financial and material resources to the partnership than the South, creating a power inequality which may enable the North to assume control of the partnership and impairing the mutuality necessary for the partnership to function successfully.[17] This concern was reflected by a number of developing nations who formed a coalition to lobby against the development of Type II partnerships, fearing that the partnerships would award too much authority over sustainable development to the global North, whilst simultaneously reducing the responsibility of industrialised nations to develop and implement legally binding intergovernmental management strategies.[1]

In order to maintain mutuality, it is therefore essential that the definition of a contribution within Type II partnerships is extended beyond financial and material resources, and includes knowledge, skills and other relevant strengths which can be incorporated to redress the balance of power within the partnership.[17]

Accountability

Critics of Type II partnerships have expressed concern that the initiative is simply a means by which to deflect accountability for sustainable development management from states and international organisations. The United States, a nation infamously opposed to state-led environmental governance as evidenced by their withdrawal from the Kyoto protocol, strongly supported the development of Type II partnerships whilst continuing to oppose Type I outcomes, leading to concern that some nations may view Type II partnerships as an opportunity to deflect attention from a lack of state-level progress in the management of sustainable development. An emphasis on Type II partnerships, it is argued, could therefore be exploited by nations who wish to avoid accountability for the management of sustainable development and environmental issues, transferring responsibility for such issues to private actors who are less accountable to the needs of those affected by the problem in question.[18]

The ensuring of accountability and transparency is a key criterion of Type II partnerships; however, the diverse multi-stakeholder composition of the partnerships negates the use of traditional accountability methods, such as the introduction of a centralised authority charged with maintaining the accountability of the partners involved in Type II agreements.[19] Bäckstrand[20] suggests that a pluralistic system of accountability, incorporating market and reputational accountability measures such as financial sanctions and naming and shaming, could improve the accountability of the actors involved in Type II partnerships by providing more flexible methods of ensuring accountability which can be adapted to the nature of the actor in question.

Discussion

The Type II partnerships developed at the Johannesburg summit demonstrated a paradigm-shifting impact upon sustainable development discourse and the conceptualisation of global environmental governance. By addressing the limitations of the state-centric, top-down method which typified environmental governance prior to Johannesburg and facilitating the participation of private and civil actors in the governing of sustainable development, the partnerships became emblematic of the transition from command-and-control government to the informal, participatory governance mechanisms by which global environmental governance is now classified. Furthermore, the partnerships exemplify the use of transnational governance networks as a mechanism by which to implement environmental policy at local and regional level. Such factors led the World Resources Institute[8] to declare the partnerships representative of a ‘new era’ of environmental governance.

However, considering the flaws inherent in the partnerships, it is crucial that advocates of the agreements resist the temptation to consider them a magic bullet with which every shortcoming of a centralised approach to environmental governance can be addressed. Although advantageous in terms of increased flexibility and effective lower-level implementation of policies, partnerships lack the internal and external accountability of intergovernmental strategies, and may intensify power inequalities between the industrialised North and developing South. The decision of the UN to introduce Type II partnerships as complementary governance mechanism is therefore the most appropriate application of the partnerships, as the dynamic interaction between intergovernmental strategies and voluntary public-private-civil partnerships can potentially produce a far greater positive impact upon global environmental governance than the sum of its parts.

References

  1. ^ a b c Witte, J.M.; Streck, C.; Benner, T. (2003). T. Benner; C. Streck; J.M. Witte, eds. or Peril? Networks and Partnerships in Global Environmental Governance. Washington D.C.: Global Public Policy Institute. 
  2. ^ Baker, Susan (2006). Sustainable Development. Abingdon: Routledge. 
  3. ^ a b c d Death, Carl (2009). Governing Sustainable Development: Partnerships, Protests and Power at the World Summit. Abingdon: Routledge. 
  4. ^ Von Moltke, K (2002). "Governments and International Civil Society in Sustainable Development: A Framework". International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics. 2 (4): 341–359. Retrieved 10 May 2011. 
  5. ^ a b UNESCAP (2003). Regional Follow-Up to the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Asia and the Pacific. Italy: United Nations Publications. 
  6. ^ Bull, B (2011). G.A. Hodge; C. Greve; A.E. Boardman, eds. International Handbook on Public-Private Partnerships. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar. 
  7. ^ Global Water Partnership. "About GWP". Retrieved 11 May 2011. 
  8. ^ a b World Resources Institute. "The Johannesburg Summit- News Release". Retrieved 11 May 2011. .
  9. ^ Foucault, Michel (1998). The Will to Knowledge: The History of Sexuality, vol. 1. London: Penguin. 
  10. ^ a b Mert, A (2009). "Partnerships for sustainable development as discursive practice: Shifts in discourses of environment and democracy". Forest Policy and Economics. 11 (5–6): 326–339. doi:10.1016/j.forpol.2008.10.003. Retrieved 14 May 2011. 
  11. ^ a b Andonova, L.B.; Levy, M.A. (2003). "Franchising Global Governance: Making Sense of the Johannesburg Type II Partnerships" (PDF). Yearbook of International Co-operation on Environment and Development 2003/04. Retrieved 5 May 2011. 
  12. ^ a b Andonova, L.B. (2009). F. Biermann; B. Siebenhüner; A. Schreyögg, eds. International Organisations in Global Environmental Governance. Abingdon: Routledge. 
  13. ^ Glasbergen, P. (2007). P. Glasbergen, ed. Partnerships, Governance and Sustainable Development: Reflections on Theory and Practice. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar. 
  14. ^ Evans, J (2011). Environmental Governance. Abingdon: Routledge. 
  15. ^ Biermann, F; Chan, M-S.; Mert, A.; Pattberg, P. (2007). "Multi-stakeholder Partnerships for Sustainable Development: Does the Promise Hold?" (PDF). Paper presented at the 2007 Amsterdam Conference on the Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change. Retrieved 6 May 2011. 
  16. ^ Brinkerhoff, D.W.; Brinkerhoff, J.M. (2004). "Partnerships between international donors and non-governmental development organizations: opportunities and constraints". Review of Administrative Sciences. 70 (2): 253–270. Retrieved 15 May 2011. 
  17. ^ a b Blagescu, M.; Young, J. (2005). "Partnerships and Accountability: Current thinking and approaches among agencies supporting Civil Society Organisations". ODI Working Paper no. 255. Retrieved 14 May 2011. 
  18. ^ Bigg, T. (2004). T. Bigg, ed. Survival For a Small Planet. London: Earthscan. 
  19. ^ Hale, T.N.; Mauzerall, D.L. (2004). "Thinking Globally and Acting Locally: Can the Johannesburg Partnerships Coordinate Action on Sustainable Development?". Journal of Environment and Development. 13 (3): 220–239. Retrieved 5 May 2011. 
  20. ^ Bäckstrand, K (2006). "Democratizing Global Environmental Governance? Stakeholder Democracy after the World Summit on Sustainable Development". European Journal of International Relations. 12 (4): 467–498. Retrieved 6 May 2011. 

External links

source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Type_II_Partnerships
 

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