Sex is great. Especially orgasms. Not just for us people, but also for fruit flies. Scientists have discovered that when fruit flies don’t get enough sex, they will refer to alcohol as an alternative reward.
Dr Galit Shohat-Ophir of the Bar-Ilan University in Israel wanted to know how sex relates to the biological rewarding system for flies. In order to know what the flies did or didn’t find an enjoyable experience, the flies were genetically modified, to the extend that they could be influenced by light signals. If the flies were exposed to red light, their brain produced corazonin. A substance known to trigger male fruit flies to ejaculate.
Next, the flies where placed in a setting that was half lite with red light. By following the flies, it became clear that the male flies preferred to sit in the red light. In other words, they were looking for ejaculation. The researchers concluded that the males were not so much looking for sex, but for the reward of ejaculation.
Then the flies were trained to associate the red light with certain odors. The result was the same. Successful reproduction is also known to increase the levels of neuropeptide. Flies that had stayed in the red light and should have their brains filled with neuropeptide were less inclined to consume alcohol if they were presented the choice of a mail with and without alcohol. On the other hand, flies that did not get exposed to the red light chose a meal with alcohol.
Dr Shohat-Opir concludes that flies who did not get sex, had a higher need for alcohol as an alternative reward. According to the researchers, the results can be used to better understand why humans become addicted to for instance drugs. The idea behind this is that individuals would get addicted if they do not get sufficient rewards from other sources.
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