How would you feel if I told you that a virus could be responsible for depleting human intelligence? According to scientists at Johns Hopkins Medical School and the University of Nebraska, a virus that infects human brains could be making much of the population ‘stupid’.
It sounds a bit bizarre, but the scientists stumbled upon an algae virus never before observed in healthy people. The virus was found to affect cognitive functions including visual processing and spatial awareness by altering the gene expression of brain cells. So far, it has been found in about 45% of the 90 people tested.
While it was never found before in healthy individuals, the researchers have now found DNA in the throats of healthy people that matched the DNA of a virus known to infect green algae.
Dr Robert Yolken, a virologist who led the original study, said:
“This is a striking example showing that the ‘innocuous’ microorganisms we carry can affect behaviour and cognition. Many physiological differences between person A and person B are encoded in the set of genes each inherits from parents, yet some of these differences are fueled by the various microorganisms we harbour and the way they interact with our genes.”
The study abstract, found in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reads:
“Chloroviruses (family Phycodnaviridae) are large DNA viruses known to infect certain eukaryotic green algae and have not been previously shown to infect humans or to be part of the human virome. We unexpectedly found sequences homologous to the chlorovirus Acanthocystis turfacea chlorella virus 1 (ATCV-1) in a metagenomic analysis of DNA extracted from human oropharyngeal samples.
…The inoculation of ATCV-1 into the intestinal tract of 9–11-wk-old mice resulted in a subsequent decrease in performance in several cognitive domains, including ones involving recognition memory and sensory-motor gating. ATCV-1 exposure in mice also resulted in the altered expression of genes within the hippocampus. These genes comprised pathways related to synaptic plasticity, learning, memory formation, and the immune response to viral exposure.”
In February of 2013, I wrote a piece about how despite our advancements over the last tens or even hundreds of years, some ‘experts’ believe that humans are losing cognitive capabilities and becoming more emotionally unstable. That is to say, human intelligence is slowly declining. One Stanford University researcher and geneticist, Dr. Gerald Crabtree, believes that our intellectual decline as a race has much to do with adverse genetic mutations.
In that same piece, I reveal a number of other factors that could be depleting brain power. Check it out above.
Could the recent discovery of this human-infecting ‘stupid’ virus have to do with the slow decline in human intelligence? Or, do you think we’re actually getting smarter?