Monday, 4 June 2012

After-Sex Switch: Mapping the Changing Behaviors in the Female Fruit Fly's Mind

ScienceDaily (May 31, 2012) — If men are from Mars and women are from Venus, then it shouldn't be surprising that their neural circuits differ. In research recently published in the journal Current Biology, researchers have used dramatic changes in the behaviour of the female fruit fly after sex to help map these often very different circuits.

The fruit fly is an established model for mapping the underlying neural elements that direct behaviour. Courtship and reproduction in particular lend themselves to the identification of the neural circuitry responsible for individual sex-specific behaviours. These studies have almost exclusively focused on the male, with the female's role largely ignored or marginalised to a somewhat passive recipient of the male's attention.

"The male fruit fly is a big show off, always trying to impress the female with his elegant courtship display," explains Dr Stephen Goodwin from the University of Oxford. "During courtship, the female is somewhat 'coy' and her behaviours are more enigmatic, so she has tended to be overlooked. But she behaves very differently after mating, and we have exploited this complex behavioural change to explore how chemical signals passed between the sexes can trigger complex behaviours."

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