Many parasites induce specific changes in host behavior that promote the transmission of their infective stages between hosts. Toxoplasmosis in rodents is known to be accompanied by specific behavioral changes (shift in activity level, learning capacity, and novelty discrimination) that can theoretically increase the chance of infected animals being eaten by the definitive host, the cat. However, toxoplasmosis is also accompanied by many pathological symptoms. It is not known whether the behavioral changes are products of manipulation activity of the parasite or only nonspecific by-products of pathological symptoms of toxoplasmosis. Here, we compared the dynamics of development of behavioral and pathological changes in Toxoplasma gondii-infected mice. The results showed that the maximum reduction of mouse activity corresponded with the peak of pathological symptoms, and also that maximum increase of reaction times corresponded with the peak of development of tissue cysts in the brains of infected mice. Behavioral changes were only transient and disappeared before the 12th wk postinoculation. The results suggest that the behavioral changes in infected mice reported by many authors and observed in our experiments could be nonspecific by-products of pathological symptoms of toxoplasmosis rather than specific products of manipulation activity by the parasite.
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