Watch what happens when herpes spreads to your brain

Nearly 1 in 6 adults have some form of herpes. But in extremely rare cases, the virus can spread to your brain.


Rae Votta


Published May 29, 2015   Updated May 28, 2021, 5:31 pm CDT

Although there’s a huge stigma attached to herpes, the truth is that the virus is incredibly common. Nearly 1 out of 6 people in the United States carry genital herpes caused by the HSV-2 virus, and the CDC estimates that that number is likely much higher for other types of the virus.

Once herpes gets in your system, it’s not going anywhere. But what can it do once it takes up residence inside you?

That’s the question behind the latest edition of “Gross Science,” the YouTube show that exposes bizarre stories from the world of science. This video reveals how herpes takes many forms, from cold sores to chicken pox. Once you’ve had it, it shacks up inside your neurons, waiting to make its next move.

For approximately two in one million people, herpes goes for the brain. Those who survive the infection are left with a bizarre brain ailment that renders them unable to differentiate between different types of categories, like animals or different types of colors.

But the trauma has led to scientists learning more about how our brains work by seeing how they function when damaged. Basically, it’s like turning brain herpes into brain herpes lemonade.

Screengrab via Gross Science/YouTube

Share this article
*First Published: May 29, 2015, 12:28 pm CDT