Sleep or make love? Science answers


Sleep or make love? It is a dilemma that is consumed under the sheets and that, at least among humans, has the potential to unleash incurable disputes between him and her.

But science offers one more reason to make peace, an alibi that could put the sleepy man above suspicion. And to suggest it is the lesson that comes from the fruit fly.

Because the choice between these two competing imperatives is a behavioral problem that unites many species, assure the experts.

And by studying insect pairs, it was discovered that it is the natural instinct to drive males and females differently in the choice between two fundamental activities.

Everything depends on a ‘control unit’ in the brain: the authors of a study published in ‘Nature Communications’ have identified a neuronal connection that regulates in the ‘Drosophila’ the interaction between courtship and sleep.

It starts from a certainty. “An organism can do only one thing per vote”, explains Michael Nitabach, professor of genetics and molecular and cellular physiology at Yale University (USA), corresponding author of the work carried out in collaboration with scientists of the Janelia Research Campus of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (USA), of Southeast University (China) and of the University of San Diego (USA).

Researchers investigated the neuronal activity involved in both behaviors and found that when males are deprived of sleep they show little interest in courtship, while lack of rest has no effect on female behavior in mating.

According to the scientists, the behavior of the male fly is easily explained by calling into question an adaptive behavior: falling asleep during sex is not a good way to transmit its genes, it would be the beacon that guides them.

But one question remains, since waking excess does not bend the females: why are the ‘moscerine’ still receptive to the ‘avance’ masculine even when sleepy?

“It could be – answers Nitabach – that females can not afford to give up a potential suitor suitable for mating, no matter how tired they are”.

What seems to emerge, the scientist continues, “is that the behavior supported by the greatest biological drive suppresses the other”.

In addition to identifying this specific sexual conduct, the team also revealed the underlying functional connections between distinct neural centers that mediate sex and sleep.

Human beings, Nitabach warns, might have a similar mechanism to judge what it is best to do when the desire to sleep and to make love come into competition.


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