Spinochordodes tellinii

Bressan-Kramer Research Group

From the moment of our conception, each of us is already infected with the remnants of viruses that invaded our ancestors tens of millions of years ago and that, both for better and worse, still affect us today. We become entangled right away in a battle between genes inherited from our mother and from our father—individuals whose interests do not fully coincide with ours. We can be attacked by antibodies that our mother produces against us and colonized by cells belonging to a twin that we might never know about. As we pass through the birth canal, trillions of microbes invade us and take permanent residence in our guts; countless other microbes, viruses, and parasites will break in later on. Many of these selfish entities end up shaping our emotions, cognition, and ultimately our behavior. In a very concrete sense, we are superorganisms—or, more precisely, “holobionts”.

Our research group focuses on how selfish entities, food components, and toxic particles shape human behavior. Our mission is to produce a collection of interdisciplinary review papers that will interest both specialists and the public at large, and that are low in jargon and easy to read.

Our experimental and theoretical works cover topics in evolutionary psychology but also ones closer to our original training: visual perception and its links to higher mental processes, mathematical cognition, and time estimation.

Figure: The parasitic worm Spinochordodes tellinii partially sticks out of a bush cricket’s behind. The worm reproduces in water and, in a form of mind control, it directs its victim to drown itself. [Photo: Wikimedia Commons]