Did Chinese Scientists Turn Mice Gay?

Mar 25th 2011 – 10:42AM
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Steven Hoffer

If your pet mouse doesn't find the lady mice attractive, he could be lacking in serotonin.

New research from scientists in China argues that the so-called happiness hormone plays a role in the sexual orientation of mice, the BBC reports.

The study, published in the current edition of Nature, finds that male mice bred with brains unreceptive to serotonin lost their preference for female mice. The same was true for mice bred without the tryptophan hydroxylase 2 gene, which is necessary to produce serotonin.

"This is the first time, to our knowledge, that a neurotransmitter in the brain has been demonstrated to be important in mammalian sexual preference," the report said.

Researchers found that when a male mouse was introduced to either of the serotonin-deprived groups, mice from those groups were more likely to pursue and give the male mouse the "mating call."

Just a shot of serotonin to the brain, however, and the preference for female mice was restored.

As for the implications for humans, that remains inconclusive.

"We have been using psychoactive drugs which either increase or decrease serotonin function for quite some time now, and while effects on sexual arousal, impulsivity and aggression have often been reported, no effects on sexual preference/orientation have," Keith Kendrick, a neuroscientist at the Babraham Institute in Cambridge, told the BBC. "At this time, therefore, any potential links between serotonin and human sexual preferences must be considered somewhat tenuous."

Read more at the BBC.
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