For centuries, alcoholic beverages have been linked to a temporary decrease in male sexual inhibitions. Nobody’s really been sure of why this was the case, other than the alcohol having an effect on the parts and biochemicals in the brain that regulate things like sexual health. Side effects like increased arousal and decreased inhibitions were accepted as part and parcel of exposure to enough amounts of alcohol, though only recently has there been any research conducted into finding the physiological reasons behind these effects.
Using an animal model to study the effects of alcohol, research teams in Pennsylvania State University attempted to find the exact physiological effects of chronic alcohol exposure to a person’s physical, mental, and sexual health. The team noted that there was a distinct lack of studies involving animal models to look at the effects of chronic exposure to alcohol. Kyung-An Han, the leader of the team, also noted that their research differed because they administered regular doses of ethanol – the main intoxicating component of alcohol – to the animals. This is in contrast to the short-term dosing method used by previous attempts at this study. Han believes their approach would produce more reliable and realistic results.
The first result they observed that was related to sexual health was the drop in courtship inhibitions among the intoxicated test subjects, which were fruit flies. Fruit fly males, which normally only initiated courtship with females, suddenly exhibited courtship behavior with other males. Han believes that dopamine was somehow involved, because this behavior was not observed when they altered the temperature to prevent dopamine from being transmitted to the brain. It was also noted that continued exposure to ethanol increased the likelihood that the male fruit flies would initiate courtship behavior with other males.
Chronic tolerance of the effects of the ethanol was also observed in the flies, which meant that the more exposed they were, the larger the doses required to “intoxicate” them. This has also been noted in other animals, though there have been very few scientific studies dedicated to exploring the long-term possibilities and effects of such exposure. The only concrete medical knowledge into the matter concerns the effects of long-term alcohol use in various human organs and systems, but no real data on the effects it might have on sexual health and behavior.
It was also noted that inter-male courtship behavior among the fruit flies seemed to be more likely with age. The research team found that the older the fruit fly, the more susceptible it was to the effects of ethanol exposure. In theory, this holds true for most other animals. Han’s team observed that the older the fly was and the lower the tolerance for ethanol, the more likely it was to exhibit inter-male courtship behavior.
Han’s team hopes that their study would prove to form an effective, reliable baseline for further research into the cellular and molecular interactions with alcohol in animals. Han hoped that the study would help provide evidence that sexual health and behavior was not only influenced by developmental factors, but by post-developmental influences as well.