Slugger O'Toole

Conversation, politics and stray insights

“anthropomorphising the results from flies is difficult to suppress…”

Fri 16 March 2012, 5:32pm

I’m sure there’s no significance at all in the timing of this story…  As the somewhat excitable BBC science report’s headline has it – “Sex-starved fruit flies turn to drink

In an article in Science, researchers suggest that alcohol stimulates the flies’ brains as a “reward” in a similar way to sexual conquest.

The work points to a brain chemical called neuropeptide F, which seems to be regulated by the flies’ behaviour.

Human brains have a similar chemical, which may react in a similar way.

The connection between alcohol and this chemical, which in humans is known as neuropeptide Y, has already been noted in studies involving hard-drinking mice.

They do note a caveat

It is tempting, given that humans share a similar brain chemical, to imagine that NPF drives human behaviour as well.

However, in an accompanying article in Science, Troy Zars of the University of Missouri wrote that “anthropomorphising the results from flies is difficult to suppress, but the relevance to human behaviour is obviously not yet established”.

And the Irish Times hosts a New York Times report on the study

The study suggests that some elements of the brain’s reward system have changed very little during evolution, and these include some of the mechanisms that support addiction. Levels of a brain chemical that is active in regulating appetite predicted the flies’ thirst for alcohol. A similar chemical is linked to drinking in humans.

Scientists have long known that other species have their methods of stress reduction. In lab studies, mice, rats and monkeys drink more after periods of isolation, studies suggest; the same is true of mice that are bullied or are victims of aggression.

“Reading this study is like looking back in time, to see the very origins of the reward circuit that drives fundamental behaviours like sex, eating and sleeping,” said Dr Markus Heilig, the clinical director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Dr Heilig, who was not involved in the research, said that the findings also supported new approaches to treating alcohol dependence. Researchers are investigating several compounds aimed at blunting alcohol cravings.

I hesitate to suggest that there might be a more obvious approach to the problem than the chemical one  [Pass the corkscrew... - Ed].

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Comments (5)

  1. The yokel (profile) says:

    I think the researchers need to talk to this man:
    http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/local-national/northern-ireland/no-bail-for-sex-shop-theft-accused-16130842.html

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  2. Greenflag (profile) says:

    A Pre Bacchalian joke to set the stage ;)

    Question :

    ‘How can you tell the difference between a drunken Irish mouse and a drunken Scots mouse ?

    Answer :

    ” The drunken Irish rodent is the one on all fours in the gutter and the Scots rodent is beside him attempting the breaststroke ‘

    The study above is a backwards look and it needs updating . Could it not be possible that the reward circuit that drives fundamental behaviours like sex, eating , drinking and sleeping has itself been subjected to evolutionary adaptation brought about by new stressors in the financial environment ?

    For example the recent huge surge in sociopathic and financial crimes among the denizens of Wall St , the City , Congress . Westminster etc etc can be explained as merely first order derivatives of the original circuitry ? And ergo we can expect even more ‘chaos ‘ from second and third order derivatives going forward -sorry backward? :(

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  3. wild turkey (profile) says:

    Greenflag

    an intriguing comment and associated hypothesis.

    i have tried setting up some cheap and dirty, ie non-linear and non-parametric, equations in XLSTAT. However, every time I try to type need_1, need_2 at the head of a data column, the spreadsheet automatically changes it to greed_1, greed_2, etc etc. (by the way, the data set goes back to around 3000 BC. gore vidal has described the old testament as a soap opera about gangsters and sheep theives in the desert. the jury is out on that. however, it is a data mine)

    back to the empirial analysis. any ideas? new software, multilinear regression, probit analysis?

    that said, some of the descriptor variables show, initially, a significant relationship to need/greed whatever. i’d rather not discuss these descriptors in a slugger as i might be carded

    but Greenflag, you are onto to something.

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  4. Greenflag (profile) says:

    It’s a part of human nature -greed -that is and like arsenic a certain amount may even be a tonic and a spur to economic development given the nature of capitalism . It’s just that when capital becomes concentrated to the point when those who create ‘money ‘ via the fiat system also have the power to leverage their ‘created ‘money to enslave taxpayers all over the world if their ‘gambling ‘ goes wrong thats when the golden goose starts laying sticks of financial dynamite around the world economy instead of gold .. Anyone present when Hank Paulson dragooned the world’s biggest bankers into one room and told them that they would accept the ‘bail out ‘ whether they needed it or not and would not be allowed leave until they signed up -essentially witnessed financial dictatorship . Paulson the freebooting marketeer of free for all ‘banking ‘ in the 1990′s and later was forced to ‘nationalise ‘ the USA banking system otherwise the next day the USA would have woken up to a country without a banking system and a world chaotic situation which would have made the 1930′s look like an era of prosperity .

    The real issue now is amidst the Eurozone fiasco and eveything else the elected politicians have done little or nothing to rein in the power of the now even bigger banks to ‘repeat ‘ their less than stellar performance of recent years :(

    Personally I see the financial services sector in it’s present format as the biggest threat to ‘capitalism ‘ since Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov boarded the train in Switzerland to return to Russia to lead the revolution . More anon re the world of defaulters and why some debts will never be repaid and why !

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  5. Pete Baker (profile) says:

    Focus, Greenie…

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