December 12, 2017  Last Update: November 27, 2017, 8:52 pm

Sex Advances Rejected, Horny Guy Loses Interest and Turns to Alcohol

With his advances rejected by the female, the horny male  fruit fly turns to alcohol for solace. That’s the new research findings exploding onto the Internet today, as news outlets find funny headlines to catch reader attention.

Some of the headlines:

“Sex-deprived male flies go for the booze”

“Flies Cry in their Beer, Too”

How Booze Takes the Edge Off for Sexually Thwarted Fruit Flies”

and my favorite promoted by Science magazine itself:

“She Said No, Pass Me a Beer”

The real story involves drosophila, arguably the most studied creature on earth. This fruit fly has been analyzed by scientists for generations. It’s complete genome was decyphered, and drosophila are used for early research into all sorts of organic chemistry. In the March 15 issue of Science, drosophila is the subject of research showing sexually frustrated males choose alcohol over other options, provided none of those options is a willing female. Sound familiar?

It’s a field day for science writers seeking popular attention. Huffington Post says “Guys, when your sweetheart says No thanks to sex, do you knock back a few stiff drinks to feel better? Turns out fruit flies do…” while the Med Page folks playfully scribbled “Rejected by the ladies, male fruit flies followed the beaten down path of their human counterparts: they drowned their bruised psyches in the bottom of a bottle“.

This is all just play, of course, around the real science — the role of specific neuropeptides in satiety, the sense of being satisfied. In fruit flies, a specific neuropeptide known to exist in low levels shows up in relative abundance after sexual activity. So, researchers investigated how levels of that neuropeptide might be associated with behavior.  And they learned a few things.

  • One: Horny fruit flies are low in neuropeptide F. If they have sex, the levels of neuropeptide F rises.
  • Two: Horny male fruit flies placed with horny female fruit flies have sex.  Given  choice of alcohol or water after sex, the fruit flies drink some of each.
  • Three:  Horny fruit flies placed with already-satisfied females, get their sexual advances rejected. Given  choice of alcohol or water after the rejection, the fruit flies drink more alcohol than otherwise.
  • Four: After having been placed with non-horny female fruit flies and rejected, horny male fruit flies are less horny. They “lose interest” in trying to have sex with additional horny females brought into their presence.

Conclusion? Rebuffed, they lose interest in sex, and turn to booze. Just. Like. Humans.

The scientific conclusions are a little different than those of the media, but not completely. Humans have similar satiety neuropeptides to neuropeptide F. These are believed to play a significant role in the sense of satisfaction we get when we are “rewarded”. The reward mechanisms of our brains and bodies are of keen interest to addiction researchers, including those studying alcoholism. It is hoped, that further research into these neuropeptides will lead to a better understanding of   and control of alcoholism and perhaps other substance dependencies.

Of course the media could have said “Sex Advances Rejected, Horny Guy Loses Interest and Turns to Food” or “Sex Advances Rejected, Horny Guy Loses Interest and Gets Fat” because neuropeptide F has been investigated for many years,  and has previously been shown to regulate body shape and food intake as well. That work led to discovery of involvement of neuropeptide F in the production of insulin-like peptides responsible for body fat regulation and life span.

There’s even research linking the human version of neuropeptide F (neuropeptide Y) levels to “the munchies” commonly experienced after smoking pot (scientists have a fancy name for that: “hyperphagia”).

I think they key take away from the study of the  fruit fly is that when we don’t get what we want, we tend to lose interest in what we wanted, eat more, get fatter, and make poorer choices that can shorten our life spans. That seems to fit my life experiences, how about you?

 

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