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Zars’ Perspective Article in Science Receives National Attention

March 19, 2012

Troy Zars

Troy Zars, an associate professor of biological sciences and neurology expert, said that understanding why lovelorn male flies find solace in ethanol could help treat human addictions.

COLUMBIA, Mo. – After being deprived of sex, male fruit flies, known as Drosophila melanogaster, may turn to alcohol to fulfill a physiological demand for a reward, according to a study published in the 16 March 2012 issue of Science magazine by Galit Shohat-Ophir and colleagues . Troy Zars, associate professor of biological sciences, 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 an associated Perspective article that appeared in the same issue of Science.

In the study, male fruit flies 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,”.

The study received national attention, with comments from Zars appearing in over 200 news outlets worldwide, including Associated Press, Science AAAS,  Wall Street Journal, BBC.co.uk, Globe and Mail, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, and Huffington Post.

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The full text of Zars’ Perspective article, “She Said No, Pass Me a Beer,” is available from Science magazine.

The full text of the study is also available from Science magazine.

Some coverage of the story is available from Science AAAS.

Related research strengths:
Behavior, Neurobiology