Hidden Virus Makes Us Dumber

Study: People with chlorovirus ATCV-1 score lower on cognitive tests
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Nov 10, 2014 8:34 AM CST
Updated Nov 15, 2014 7:30 AM CST
Chlorovirus ATCV-1 is found in algae.   (AP Photo/The Green Bay Press-Gazette, H. Marc Larson)

(Newser) – US researchers have come across a virus that may make us dumber—and it's turning up in the throats of otherwise-healthy people, the Independent reports. Some 43% of 92 people in a study were found to have the virus. Those affected scored about 10% lower on tests involving visual processing, Science reports; for instance, it took them comparatively longer to draw a line through a numerical sequence on a page. Their attention spans also appeared to be shorter. "There's more and more studies showing that microorganisms in your body have a bigger influence than anything anyone would have predicted, and this could be something along those lines," says a researcher.

Known as chlorovirus ATCV-1, the virus typically affects freshwater algae, Healthline reports. Mice infected with the virus subsequently suffered declining scores on similar cognitive tests. The virus, researchers found, managed to cross the blood-brain barrier and take a toll on genes in the mice's brains. A few things to note, however: More research is needed to see if the virus exists in people outside the Baltimore study area, and even if it is, an outside expert says its effect seems minimal: "If you ask me if I am worried about the existence of this virus, I am not." (When it comes to IQs, it seems that men's are easier to guess than women's.)

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