If you've watched TV or opened the entertainment section of your newspaper recently, you've seen ads for The Invasion, staring Nicole Kidman, and recognized it as a fancy remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. I don't think that I'm spoiling the plot by saying that the involves alien spores that take over humans as they sleep. Infected people are spotted by the heroine by their unusual behavior.
Dr. Marc Siegel uses The Invasion as a jumping off point to write about the "truth about behavioral changes" caused by viruses and parasites in his Unreal World column for the LA Times (login with bugmenot). His plot summary emphasizes some of the silly bioscience used to explain how people are "snatched."
This time, instead of plant-like pods, it's an alien virus-like particle attached to the wreckage of the NASA Shuttle Patriot, and it begins to spread rapidly through the human population. The virus (in the jargon of the movie) interferes with sweat, causes a "cellular condensation," a "metabolic reaction" and alters the body's "genetic expression" by the "integration of alien DNA" -- while turning everyone into emotionless robots.While the premise of The Invasion may be pseudoscience, Siegel does discuss several viruses that do indeed affect human behavior, including virus-like prions, viral encephalitis, and Borna disease virus. The real world is often more bizarre than what imaginative Hollywood screenwriters can imagine.
Tags:science fiction, biology, viruses, behavior, The Invasion