Researchers put horny male fruit flies in a container one at a time with a female fruit fly who had just mated and did not want sex at all. Each fly endured three hours of rejection each day for four days. What happened next is the fly equivalent of drowning your sorrows with your buddies Jack Daniel’s, Johnny Walker, and Jim Beam.
After that experience, rejected flies were put in vials and given a choice of regular food or alcohol-laced food. They consistently went for the alcohol more than did the male flies that had just mated. In fact, they evidently got plastered.
Some rejected males were moved to a different environment, where groups of guys mingled with receptive females. After the guys had sex, their yen for alcohol declined.
The same booze-soaked phenomenon occurred after male flies were placed with dead female flies — so they weren’t technically rejected, but there was still no sex. So in the human world, if guys are shot down when they’re on the make or just don’t get any action period, will they be more likely to overdo it with booze? Possibly — and it has a lot to do with the brain and its reward system.
The researchers did other work that implicates a substance in the fly brain called NPF. They theorize that pleasurable activities like having sex boost the activity of brain circuits that use NPF, and that feels good. If a fly is denied sex, the system goes into deficit, driving the fly to seek other rewarding activities such as drinking alcohol.
“I think it’s a pretty good bet that it will translate to humans,” said Ulrike Heberlein of the University of California, San Francisco, who led the research. If so, “one can say we could now understand why a negative experience, such as a sexual rejection, could drive somebody to drink.”
Poor flies. And poor guys. Wonder if the same results would occur with female subjects… Hey, rejection hurts regardless of gender!
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