WEDNESDAY, July 28, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- A cluster of nerve cells embedded in the central nervous system of male fruit flies controls their elaborate courtship rituals, which include love songs and gentle leg tapping on prospective female partners.
But when these nerve cells don't function properly, the male flies go from suave romancers to loutish bar flies that try to force their affections on unreceptive females, says a Stanford University study in the July 29 issue of Nature.
The researchers say their findings offer new insight into how the brain controls sexual behavior in a number of species, including humans.
"The fruit fly is a model organism whose basic cellular functions are very similar to what they are in people," study co-author Bruce S. Baker, a professor of biology at Stanford, said in a prepared statement.
"It wouldn't surprise me to learn that human sexual behaviors also have underneath them a basic circuitry in the nervous system that mediates attraction and mating," Baker said.
The Nemours Foundation has information about sexual health.