Study: Male Fruit Flies Turn to Booze When Sexually Rejected, Just Like Us Humans | After Dark | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly
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Sex Studies

Study: Male Fruit Flies Turn to Booze When Sexually Rejected, Just Like Us Humans

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Fri, Mar 16, 2012 at 10:13 AM

click to enlarge He's definitely thinking about sex...or vodka.
  • He's definitely thinking about sex...or vodka.

A study published this week in Science magazine confirms that the proclivity to get shit-faced after being sexually rejected isn't exclusive to dive bar sad-sacks.

According to research, male fruit flies do it, too. [Please insert your own "fly walks into a bar" joke here.]

Scientists at the University of San Francisco conducted a study in which two dozen male fruit flies, (that's drosophila melanogaster, for all you smarty pantses), were put in one of two situations:

Half were placed in vials in groups of four, each group with 20 female flies ready to mate and allowing the males to get it on with multiple. (Score bro!) The other half were left alone in vials, each with one female that had already mated, causing her to reject any courtship advances. (Bummer bro.)

After four days of repeated mating or rejection, (which sounds a lot like a typical college sophomore's spring break experience), the male flies were moved to a new location containing food -- some of which was laced with alcohol and some of which was not. Flies were allowed to choose between the two, while researchers monitored consumption.

click to enlarge But which kind of fruit fly, guy?
  • But which kind of fruit fly, guy?

Here's where things start sounding more like most of your Saturday nights: though researchers expected all of the flies to prefer alcohol-laced food, (because who DOESN'T?) they found that the males who had successfully mated passed on the boozy food.

The rejected males, however, displayed a clear preference for it. On average, the rejected male flies "drank" four times more alcohol than those that had mated.

Researchers connect this behavior to a chemical in the brain called neuropeptide F (NPF) and found that when the amount of this chemical was reduced in the males that had mated, they behaved like the flies who had not. That is to say, they got hammered, or whatever constitutes a drunk fruit fly. Probably flying in circles and crashing into rotting apples or whatever.

The implication here is that experience -- being rejected or not being rejected -- is translated into a molecular signature through NPF levels. In turn, those levels drive the behavior -- either drinking or not drinking -- that restores the brain's reward system to normal levels.

Long story short, sex makes most every living thing happy.

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