In a discovery that might be true even for some humans, researchers have shown that male brains- at least in nematodes – will suppress the ability to locate food in order to instead focus on finding a mate.
The results may point to how subtle changes in the brain’s circuitry dictate differences in behaviour between males and females.
“While we know that human behaviour is influenced by numerous factors, these findings point to basic biological mechanisms that may not only help explain some differences in behaviour between males and females, but why different sexes may be more susceptible to certain neurological disorders,” explained Douglas Portman, associate professor from University of Rochester.
The experiments involved C. elegans, a microscopic roundworm. There are two sexes of C. elegans- males and hermaphrodites.
Though the hermaphrodites are able to self-fertilise, they are also mating partners for males and are considered to be modified females.
It has been previously observed that males will leave food source and “wander” because they are in search of a mate.
The researchers discovered that the sensory mechanisms called chemo-receptors were regulated by the sexual identity of these cells.
These control the expression of a receptor called ODR-10.
“In males, fewer of these receptors are active, essentially suppressing their ability- and perhaps desire- to find food,” Portman pointed out.
In lab experiments, researchers found that the normal worms left their food source and eventually made their way to the centre of the dish where they mated with the hermaphrodites.
“These findings show that by tuning the properties of a single cell, we can change behaviour,” Portman added.
The paper appeared in the journal Current Biology.