So. You want to be more outgoing but are paralyzed with the sort of social anxiety that makes you blurt out conversation-halting statements such as, "I also enjoy popular culture. Are we friends yet???" when a new acquaintance starts talking about how good The Master was. This is a common dilemma and, in any other circumstances, someone might tell you to get super wasted so that your more charming and loquacious self emerges from the uninteresting husk that is your sober body. However, all you really need to do, according to some entirely speculative scientific data, is adopt a lot of cats and let the allegedly mind-bending parasite Toxoplasma gondii wriggle its way into your brain.

A new study published in the European Journal of Personality suggests that humans infected with the parasite can experience a mood boost, since T. gondii (which, according to CDC estimates, infects about 22.5 percent of Americans over the age of 12) is linked to increased levels of dopamine in an infected person's brain. For that kind of friend-making mood enhancement, you'd have to eat undercooked, contaminated meat, unwashed vegetables, or cat litter, straight from the scooper. Unfortunately, a study from last month more or less dismissed the idea that cats were actually implanting parasites in their owners' brains. Best to get a baker's dozen of cats, though, just in case.

How owning a cat can make you more outgoing [ScienceBlogs]