A new research: fruit flies that attempted to mate with females and were rejected were drowning their sorrows by over-consumption of alcohol, compared to their colleagues who managed to mate and preferring to eat food without alcohol. The hope: The study will help treating addictions to drugs, alcohol and depression in humans.
According to a study published in Friday on the scientific journal “science” in the United States: Sexually frustrated Fruit flies that were rejected by females, find comfort and drown their sorrows in alcohol.
The researchers found that a change in the expression of a small molecule (Nero peptide F) in the brains of the rejected males, leads them to drink much more alcohol than other males who managed to mate without a problem.
“Animals perform a variety of behaviors with two main goals – survival and reproduction – including eating, mating and offspring care,” says Dr. Galit Shohat – Ophir, a researcher in genetics, “the study of behavior” and brain research from Virginia, USA.
“Survival-related behaviors are reinforced by the brain reward systems and set natural rewards. Drugs such as alcohol use these systems to instill memories in the brain associated with the experience of drug use, which may lead to addiction. “
Shohat performed the study along with a team of researchers from the University of California – San Francisco (UCSF) and the Institute of Medicine of Howard Hughes in Virginia – United States, the research group of Dr. Ulrike Chamberlain. During the past four years they studied tens of thousands of fruit flies (Drosophila).
Rejected males preferred food with alcohol
During laboratory experiments the researchers created two groups of males. The first group, were placed along with virgin female flies. The second group of males was continually exposed to already mate females.
While the virgin females responded to the males and immediately mated, the females that already mated in the past, have lost interest in sex and rejected the male’s courtship effort. According to Shohat – Ophir, “rejection creates a long-term memory in the minds of males”.
As a result, the males that were rejected stopped their attempts to mate, even if the female flies next to them were virgins. However, when they put them in the facility with two tubes, one containing regular food and the other contains the same kind of food only with 15% more alcohol – the rejected males chose the alcoholic food.
“The flies choose to voluntarily consume alcohol. Flies that mated successfully prefer the regular food over the one with alcohol, while those rejected prefer foods with alcohol” she explains.
“We chose to examine the behavior associated with courtship and mating since they are the most significant behaviors during the life of the flies. We examine the effect of sexual experience to the flies alcohol consumption” she notes