Saturday, December 13, 2008

Sharing a Brain Between Sexes

The process of sexual selection can only exist as a product of neural-networking differences between the sexes of organisms. According to a recent study done at Yale University, "It isn’t what you’ve got — it’s how you use it". As we learned in class, females are "programmed" to be choosy, whereas males are wired for competition as means of gaining access to the females.

The staff of Yale researchers discovered the "unisex" brain via a study on the courtship dance of flies, a light-performance the male flies put on to impress females with the intention of copulating. Their study sought out to find what neurons were responsible for behavior in the courtship dance of flies, and how the neural circuits in males and females differed. As means of testing this, the researchers "genetically engineered specific neurons in the fly to respond to light". By doing this, the scientists could manipulate the neural circuits that control the behavior pattern directly. A laser light was then used to imitate the light performance, and the resulting neural reactions of certain nerve cells in the males was observed to identify the nerve cells responsible for this courting behavior. Finally, using the laser cue, the researchers were able to show that the same set of neural-networks were present in the female flies, who could actually be manipulated to show this behavior.

I find it interesting that the differences between the two sexes is only a matter of neural networking, and in fact, we can manipulate sex-specific behaviors.


Posted By: Helen Thi (12)


At 3:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It would be interesting to see what other ways scientist could test this idea. Great article.
-Sasha Rogers

At 4:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very interesting article. So does this mean that the neural circuit that responds to light is shared by both females and males? But why would the male have it since the male only produces the light and it's the female that needs to respond to the light?

Hanbing Guo

At 6:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is really interesting. Are flies the only insects that have been tested for this? Have any similar tests been done on mammals?...Kind of scary! Great work!

Ericka Adey

At 6:27 PM, Anonymous Jen Kodela said...

Did they do any kinda of gene analysis? it would be interesting to see how similar they are genetically as well.

At 7:07 PM, Blogger PWH said...

It is interesting to know that a male and female share the same neural network, but I am a bit confused. Are you saying that the male can react to light cues like the female can? And if the male does than won't he want to mate with other males?

Chantal Gomes

At 9:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can understand this because much of the DNA contain in cells isn't used, or is inactive. Because males and females only differ slightly, I can understand why it would be easier for nature to create a "variation on a theme", that is: form two things from the same template. So do you think that it would be possible to generate role-reversal, that is manipulate the sex-specific behaviors so that males are choosy and females are competitive?
Thank you very much for the post.

-Amanda Sceusa (11)

At 9:47 PM, Blogger PWH said...

Pretty cool, I am curious to see if this same principle could be applied to other organisms to see if we could rewire male and female brains in order to completely reverse their roles.

-Joe Alonzo

At 8:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought that this was a very interesting article. What is meant by a unisex brain? I am also curious as to what constitutes differences in "neural networking?

-Alex Jackson

At 1:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is scary, but kind of awesome too. We might eventually be able to genetically train a human male to give "desired" responces to certain environmental or behavioral cues. Weird, but intriguing line of thought... When you said that females could also be made to show this behavior, did you mean that they can take on the guy role and mimic them?

Ada Marie Flores


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