Even Flies Enjoy Ejaculation: Study

Even Flies Enjoy Ejaculation: Study

It seems that males of many species -- even the common fruit fly -- get a real buzz from ejaculation.

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And, like some human males, if denied sex, male fruit flies will turn to boozing instead.

There's actually some scientific purpose to all this research: Scientists say it might further understanding of drug and alcohol addiction.

The findings were published April 19 in the journal Current Biology.

The study's premise was simple: "We wanted to know which part of the mating process entails the rewarding value for flies," said study co-author Galit Shohat-Ophir, of Bar-Ilan University in Israel.

She said her team wondered about various elements in an amorous fly's love life -- "The actions that males perform during courtship? A female's pheromones?" Or, she said, "the last step of mating, which is sperm and seminal fluid release?"

Through their experiments, the Israeli researchers found that even the male fruit fly appears to get pleasure from ejaculation.

"Mating is naturally rewarding to male flies and increases the levels of a small peptide in the brain called Neuropeptide F.," which is tied to "reward," Shohat-Ophir said in a journal news release.

The researchers said this is the first study to show that the pleasure of ejaculation occurs in animals ranging from flies to mammals.

"The principles by which the brain processes reward are extremely conserved in all animals; this is a really basic everyday machinery that helps animals survive," Shohat-Ophir said.

What's more, further experiments showed that "male flies that are sexually deprived have increased motivation to consume alcohol as an alternative reward," the researcher noted.

So in the fly world, just as in human mating, spurned lovers sometimes turn to drink.

"Our studies suggest that the state of the animal [i.e., undergoing successful mating or being rejected] affects the motivation to consume drug rewards," Shohat-Ophir said.

And since flies are easily accessed as study subjects, these new insights might help further addiction research, she added.

"Drugs of abuse use the same systems in the brain that are used to process natural rewards," Shohat-Ophir explained. "This allows us to use simple model organisms to study aspects of drug addiction, including the interplay between natural and drug rewards and the connection between experience and the mechanisms that underlie the risk to develop drug addiction."

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The researchers plan to continue investigating how information about ejaculation or successful mating reaches the brain, and how that may be linked to people's risk for addiction.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse has more about addiction.


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