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Ditched sexually-starved fruit flies hit the bottle just like humans

March 16, 2012 - Washington

Jilted male fruit flies do pretty much the same thing like humans when they are denied sex - drowning their sorrows in booze - a new study has revealed.

Troy Zars, an associate professor of biological sciences at the University of Missouri and neurobiology expert, said that understanding why rejected male flies find solace in ethanol could help treat human addictions.

"Identifying the molecular and genetic mechanisms controlling the demand for reward in fruit flies could potentially influence our understanding of drug and alcohol abuse in humans, since previous studies have detailed similarities between signaling pathways in fruit flies and mammals," Zars said.

In the study, male fruit flies, known as Drosophila melanogaster, that had mated repeatedly for several days showed no preference for alcohol-spiked food.

On the other hand, spurned males and those denied access to females strongly preferred food mixed with 15 percent alcohol. The researchers believed the alcohol may have satisfied the flies' desire for physical reward.

Zars said the new discovery could lead to greater understanding of the relationship between the social and physical causes of substance abuse in humans.

"The authors provide new insights into a neural circuit that links a rewarding social interaction with a lasting change in behavior preference," Zars said.

The study has been published in the journal Science.


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