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Showing entries tagged sex drive.  Show all entries

December 3, 2011

Drinking on the Job: How Flies get Drunk


Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night... I know what you're thinking. No class till Monday, no work, what a great night to get ahead on studying and up to date with all the problems in the world. However, I must point out this plan is not the first thing that pops into everyone else's mind (at least those outside the world of the poor soul who is reading this neuroscience blog). Much of western society is based around the beverage/drug/poison we've come to know as alcohol. It has come to the attention of neuroscientist that our race is not the only one that takes pleasure in consuming firewater. It turns out some researchers were playing with the old 160 proof lab ethanol when they came upon an astounding discovery.

It all started when one turned to the other and croaked, "I'm drunkk frog haha." The other slurred back, "weelll thenn, gooood thing I'm not a fly huh?" That's when it hit them. "Eureka!" piped the first. "Oh my god!" yelled the second. "Let's" get the flies wasted!" the second hollered back. They quickly spun off their lab stools and bustled for the fly room stumbling and tripping the whole way. When they got to the room they immediately grabbed the first beaker of flies, ripped out the cork and filled it full of the powerful booze, instantly killing all the flies inside. Once they realized the horrendous massacre they had just committed in front of all the hundreds of thousands of other flies in the room their drunken smiles slipped off. The beaker was placed on the counter as the two somber scientists held each other with silent tears streaming down their cheeks. Then one started laughing; irritated, the other muttered, "How can you laugh at a time like this? We just killed them, in front of their families... drowned them, squashed them like flies... "Look, that one's drunk," the other researcher pointed at a fly that was clearly not adhering to the standard sober drosophila flight pattern. They watched the fly for nearly two hours, they sat on the fly room floor entranced by the fly's drunken escapades. Then as its flight pattern began to return to normal it headed back to the beaker full of booze, and began gulping down, without a thought to the dead brothers, sisters, cousins and children floating on top. Gleeful laughter burst from the researchers as they cheersed and began taking large quaffs of their own. Quickly forgetting their bloody hands they then began pulling the corks of the other beakers, filling up petri dishes with ethanol, and pipetting small volumes of ethanol in for the larvae--so no one was left out. They spent the whole night at the lab with their new found drinking buddies and had a gay old time. A few days later after their handover was gone they decided to write a paper.

It was determined drosophila liked the inebriation caused by excessive consumption of ethanol. Like us, the flies were experiencing their pleasure through the activation of the dopamine pathway. Activating this pathway induced LTP in the flies. Looking further into the flies' neural circuitry the researchers determined the rewarding memories the flies experienced (or the lack of memory if they got too plastered from not getting enough sugar before) were localized, accessed and retrieved with a distinct set of neurons in the mushroom body. With the vast number of flies they got drunk the researchers' found some flies didn't come back to drink. The experimenters were obviously offended and quickly squashed them. However, they didn't stop there; they proceeded to analyze the DNA so they could breed out the bad gene and make sure no other flies would be lame. They found mutations in scabrous were responsible. They commonly call it the party pooper gene around the lab. "This gene encodes a fibrinogen-related peptide that regulates Notch signaling, disrupted the formation of memories for ethanol reward" (Kaun, 2011). The experimenters have been thought to have had a little bit too much fun drinking with the flies, but they have felt the public pressure. Now they're looking into how this research will help their own species and we will undoubtedly be hearing more from them soon.

Hope you enjoyed the read, sincerely Charlie Stewart

"A Drosophila model for alcohol reward"
Karla R Kaun, Reza Azanchi, Zaw Maung, Jay Hirsh & Ulrike Heberlein
Nature Neuroscience April 17th 2011
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October 23, 2011

Glutamate Increase Elicits a Genital Response


Ever since I was a little kid, whether I was in sex ed., at home or at a friends house, there was some voice telling me that men are stimulated visually. There is no doubt in my mind this is true. Just walk down the magazine isle at a grocery store, or flip on the TV for more than ten minutes. Most women are displayed wearing next to nothing, whether in a bikini or revealing clothing. All of this is done in an attempt to sell the product. Its no wonder a lot of marketing companies are under the impression that sex sells, because it really does. But why? It cant be that men are simply sex hungry pigs, who only see women as objects of their pleasure. Maybe that is true for some of us, but there has to be something more going on. What even controls this sex drive in men and how is it increased or decreased by our outside environment?

Note: For the purpose of this article we are going to be talking about the sexual experience from a heterosexual viewpoint. It can be applied across any type of sexual relationship, but the premise for this research is based on heterosexual coupling.

Todays research on the male sex drive points to the medial preoptic area (MPOA), which is found in the hypothalamus. The MPOA is seen as the critical regulatory site for the control of male sex behavior. The MPOA does play a role the female sex behavior, but is reported to be larger in males than in females. In a paper titled Preoptic Glutamate Facilitates Male Sexual Behavior, Juan Dominguez and his colleagues at Florida State University take a stab at the neurological basis for the male sex drive. What they did was measure glutamate levels in the MPOA, before, during and after copulation in male rats. Their results showed that when the female was presented (the rats received a visual stimulus), the extracellular glutamate levels rose 140% of the baseline level. During the actual time of sex the glutamate levels rose 170% of the baseline level, and during the time of ejaculation, the glutamate levels rose an astonishing 300% of the baseline level. Immediately after ejaculation, glutamate levels decreased rapidly. Dominguez and his researches tied the fall in glutamate to the length that the individual remained at inactive or at rest after the time of ejaculation.

So why does any of this matter? Well when trying to tackle the male sex drive, this information is important. What women wear and how they present themselves has an effect on how men think and how their body reacts. A scantily clad woman can elicit an extracellular glutamate increase and an overall increased sex drive. This can have huge implications on the behavior of that individual. Now the sex drive is not only increased by the feelings the individual may experience in response to the stimulus, but has actual physical implications. Dominguez concludes his research by saying that glutamate in the MPOA can elicit genital reflexes in anesthetized rats.

I believe that there is some level of control that men have on their sexual behaviors, but mens bodys neurologically respond automatically, whether they like it or not. So ladies, the next time you are getting ready to go out, putting on perfume and deciding what to wear, realize that what you put on is part of how you want to be perceived. The actions you make, whether you flirt and tease or spend your night reserved and in conversation, alter the sex drive of men. In other words, men are going to neurologically respond according to the stimulus put in front of them. If you want to increase his sex drive, do not wear very much and touch him a lot, as he will most likely be hoping to hit that 300% of baseline. But if not, you can help control his sex drive by dressing and acting accordingly. Just as was stated to me my whole life, men are visual beings.

This is in no way a justification for the cases in which men have disrespected and abused women because what men experience and how they respond to it are two very different things. But there is a definite benefit in understanding the neuroscience behind what spurs on the male sex drive and how that can be maintained and regulated by outside stimuli.

Dominguez, Juan M., Mario Gil and Elaine M. Hull, Preoptic Glutamate Facilitates Male Sexual Behavior, Journal of Neuroscience (2006): 1699-1703; http://www.jneurosci.org/content/26/6/1699.full?sid=05b50a67-6bb0-4568-a95b-21102f0e7579
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