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Can Fruit Flies Become Alcoholics?

posted 12:06 AM EST, Fri December 11, 2009
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Can Fruit Flies Become Alcoholics? © Photo Credit: Xavi GM

According to researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, fruit flies given unlimited access to alcohol start to act very similarly to human alcoholics.

The researchers, who studied the behaviors of fruit flies given unlimited access to alcohol, say that:

  • Flies will drink more alcohol per day over time (tolerance)
  • They choose to drink enough alcohol in a session to become intoxicated
  • Once accustomed to alcohol, fruit flies will continue to drink it even if the alcohol is made to taste ‘unpalatable’
  • Alcohol accustomed fruit flies that are forced to stop consuming alcohol will quickly return to heavy consumption when again allowed access to unlimited quantities of alcohol

Lead researcher, Ulrike Heberlein, explained that this study proves that fruit flies choose to drink alcohol because they like its rewarding properties and that this is quite significant, saying, "this work opens the door for us to study much more complex alcohol-related behaviors, such as 'use despite adverse consequences' and relapse."

The full results of the study have been published in the December 10th online edition of Current Biology.

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