This site is not maintained. Click here for the new website of Richard Dawkins.

← Sexual preference chemical found in mice

Sexual preference chemical found in mice - Comments

anonymous.shyster's Avatar Comment 1 by anonymous.shyster

However, a preference for females could be "restored" by injecting serotonin into the brain.

+1 for deconversion therapies.

Sun, 27 Mar 2011 21:29:28 UTC | #608054

Neodarwinian's Avatar Comment 2 by Neodarwinian

I will reach one conclusion about human sexuality here. It is evolved, with what that entails, and not socially constructed. We will see if this can be replicated, but the presupposition, that there are biological/neurological underpinnings to human sexual behavior is very likely to be true. Though variance from mouse behavior and a larger role for environment is also likely to be true.

Sun, 27 Mar 2011 21:38:03 UTC | #608058

Outrider's Avatar Comment 3 by Outrider

Not wishing to antagonise anyone, but wouldn't this put homosexuality on a par with, say, diabetes if it turned out to be comparable in humans? A shortage, insufficiency or intolerance for a particular hormone - of course, the symptoms here would be psychological (or would neurological be more accurate?) rather than physiological, but the classification would be the same.

I think we can look forward to a raft of hardline religious commentators utilising this research to suggest that they've been right all along and being gay means there's something wrong with you.

O.

Sun, 27 Mar 2011 21:57:32 UTC | #608072

Ivan The Not So Bad's Avatar Comment 4 by Ivan The Not So Bad

Comment 3 by Outrider

Diabetes is harmful.

Sun, 27 Mar 2011 22:20:07 UTC | #608083

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 5 by Alan4discussion

We already know that many substances can affect physical, or psychological attributes, neurotransmitters in the brain and behaviour. (hallucinogenic drugs, testosterone, oestrogen, anabolic steroids etc.) The knowledge keeps building.

Sun, 27 Mar 2011 22:44:06 UTC | #608092

Tord M's Avatar Comment 6 by Tord M

Looks like science has finally found a way to treat heterosexuality in mice. But human heterosexuals should not get their hopes up too high yet. Years of clinical research and testing must still be expected before a similar cure will be made available to them.

Sun, 27 Mar 2011 23:46:26 UTC | #608118

keithapm's Avatar Comment 7 by keithapm

Okay so there is (according to this article) a rather slight chance that my homosexuality could be down to a genetically inherited chemical imbalance from the heterosexual majority. Okay. It maybe possible to create a "cure". Okay. I'll pass on that though, cause I don't need it. The only hassle being gay has left me with has been the kind that comes from religious and other assorted bigots. Other than that, it's not a problem.

I mean I've also acquired a genetically determined low concentration of melanin in my skin. I know some people suffer at the hands of others because they've a higher concentration of it but does that mean they need to be "cured" from having darker skin?

Variations such as homosexuality, skin colour, eye colour, height, etc. are harmless in and of themselves. That people use such differences to attack others does not mean that the solution is to tackle that variation. The solution is to tackle the mindset underlying that bigotry, a battle that's being  increasingly won every day. Variety is, after all, the spice of life.

Keith

Sun, 27 Mar 2011 23:58:57 UTC | #608123

Cartomancer's Avatar Comment 8 by Cartomancer

But human heterosexuals should not get their hopes up too high yet. Years of clinical research and testing must still be expected before a similar cure will be made available to them.

three bottles of cheap wine and fifty quid works occasionally, so I'm told...

Mon, 28 Mar 2011 00:15:47 UTC | #608133

cixelsyd5's Avatar Comment 9 by cixelsyd5

Comment 7 by keithapm :

Okay so there is (according to this article) a rather slight chance that my homosexuality could be down to a genetically inherited chemical imbalance from the heterosexual majority. Okay. It maybe possible to create a "cure". Okay. I'll pass on that though, cause I don't need it. The only hassle being gay has left me with has been the kind that comes from religious and other assorted bigots. Other than that, it's not a problem.

I mean I've also acquired a genetically determined low concentration of melanin in my skin. I know some people suffer at the hands of others because they've a higher concentration of it but does that mean they need to be "cured" from having darker skin?

Variations such as homosexuality, skin colour, eye colour, height, etc. are harmless in and of themselves. That people use such differences to attack others does not mean that the solution is to tackle that variation. The solution is to tackle the mindset underlying that bigotry, a battle that's being  increasingly won every day. Variety is, after all, the spice of life.

Keith

Bravo! I honestly don't know what else to say. You hit the nail quite firmly on the head.

Mon, 28 Mar 2011 02:27:23 UTC | #608168

PhilipK's Avatar Comment 10 by PhilipK

The way I see it, it's not about "fixing" homosexuals, it's simply a possible explanation for why they are the way they are. Just because a homosexual is missing something doesn't make them bad any more than an Atheist is bad for "missing" religion.

Rather, on a more optimistic note, this may be a step closer to showing that emotions are not spiritual but chemical. Of course, some people think this takes away from the emotion in itself. Too bad too sad. It's their problem if reality slaps them in the face.

Mon, 28 Mar 2011 04:45:53 UTC | #608187

Raiko's Avatar Comment 11 by Raiko

Well, we already see right here that people, no matter whether or not they've been warned about it, WILL draw conclusions about human sexuality from a set of mice. I am not surprised that people outside of dealing with these problems are unaware that often, results aren't even reproducible in different "wild-type mice", let alone transferrable to humans 1:1.

This will become a nice, stinking media-fest, no doubt.

It's funny that it'll likely be the same media that refuses to acknowledge common ancestry between mice and humans. Yet, they will be happy to draw conclusions based on the fact that mice serve as models for human diseases because they're also mammals - and all of that despite the very clear warnings that you cannot automatically draw conclusions about humans from experiments done with mice.

The irony, it bites.

PS: It's "tryptophan" (and quite unlikely that the mice used in the experiments look any like the mice in the photo).

Mon, 28 Mar 2011 07:01:42 UTC | #608200

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 12 by Alan4discussion

Comment 11 by Raiko I am not surprised that people outside of dealing with these problems are unaware that often, results aren't even reproducible in different "wild-type mice", let alone transferable to humans 1:1. -....... (and quite unlikely that the mice used in the experiments look any like the mice in the photo).

This is quite important, as the patterning on the mice in the photo clearly shows they are a domesticated race. The link below shows the acquisition of patterned coats, floppy ears and other domestic traits in foxes bred to illustrate the evolution of dogs from wolves. (2 page article + photo gallery) Their appearance and behaviour is quite different to that of wild species.

........the nearby Institute of Cytology and Genetics gathered up 130 foxes from fur farms. They then began breeding them with the goal of re-creating the evolution of wolves into dogs, a transformation that began more than 15,000 years ago. - ........Domestication, by contrast, is not a quality trained into an individual, but one bred into an entire population through generations of living in proximity to humans. Many if not most of the species' wild instincts have long since been lost. Domestication, in other words, is mostly in the genes.

Mon, 28 Mar 2011 09:03:20 UTC | #608218

Degsy's Avatar Comment 13 by Degsy

Well said Keith. I can add nothing further.

Mon, 28 Mar 2011 09:05:59 UTC | #608219

keithapm's Avatar Comment 14 by keithapm

Comment 11 by  Raiko :

I was thinking along those lines myself last night. It's quite infuriating when you have a media more obsessed with selling itself than obtaining the truth. Sickening is the word. This will get distorted and misrepresented, don't for a second doubt that.

My point last night though was that whether it be genetically coded, a product of environmental factors or even simply a "lifestyle choice" the reasons for homosexuality are irrelevant when it comes to the question of how moral it is. Is it harmful among responsible consenting adults? I've never seen or heard, despite searching extensively for it, any real data or argument, nor can I think of one, that shows it to be so.

You know I'm kinda half-hoping there's someone skulking around on the site who'll try to argue against the point that homosexuality is harmless. I'm in the mood for a good debate :-P

Keith

Mon, 28 Mar 2011 09:18:09 UTC | #608224

Ryou Concord's Avatar Comment 15 by Ryou Concord

This is VERY intriguing..

Mon, 28 Mar 2011 09:19:47 UTC | #608226

Tord M's Avatar Comment 16 by Tord M

Homosexuality has causes, just as heterosexuality. The causes might be genetic or environmental, or a combination of both, or perhaps there are many different causes for different cases. But whatever the causes might be, sexuality sits in the physical brain, and science should study it.

If the causes are found, some people might want to develop a "cure" for homosexuality. If a "hetero-pill" was ever invented, would I like to take it? Not if it had a permanent effect. But if the effect only lasted for a day or two, I can't see anything wrong in trying it, just to see what other effects it might have on my personality, which would be none I suspect. I believe a lot of heterosexuals would also like to try a temporary "homo-pill" too.

If similar short-term effect pills for neo-conservatism, evangelical christianity or post-modernism were also available, I wouldn't mind trying those either for a (very) short while, just to see how to feel to live in Absurdistan. On second thoughts, LSD already exist. Think I'll pass.

If people could really change their sexuality freely, what would they choose? I suspect many would choose bisexuality while young and single, but probably switch to either homo or hetero later, depending on whom they would be lucky enough to fall in love with.

The most reliable evidence suggest that sexual preference is determined during pregnancy, is more or less permanently fixed in the brain and can't be easily changed later in life by any pill or "cure". If it becomes possible, would parents want to screen their embryos for homosexuality? I don't think most sane parents would. But maybe some religious bigots would suddenly be tempted re-evaluate their "pro-life" stance?

Mon, 28 Mar 2011 09:29:53 UTC | #608229

keddaw's Avatar Comment 17 by keddaw

I'm not seeing how this could possibly scale up to humans.

My preference for white blonde women is due to an aesthetic choice as is my preference for women over men. I'm not seeing how altering any chemical in my brain would fundamentally alter that, 10 pints of Stella notwithstanding.

While it might be nice to think that you could be in total control of your sexuality, how would you feel if the person you're sleeping with had to take a pill each day to make you appear attractive to them? Don't know about you, but I don't think that would feel very good...

Mon, 28 Mar 2011 10:15:47 UTC | #608238

Nastika's Avatar Comment 18 by Nastika

"At this time therefore any potential links between serotonin and human sexual preferences must be considered somewhat tenuous."

A possible explanation lies in Bem's "Exotic becomes Erotic" theory where the child's temperament (based upon genetic factors) predisposes it to activities that are either enjoyed by a particular gender. The child consequently prefers the company of one gender over another and as an adult finds the other gender sexually attractive.

From this perspective it makes as much sense to have a treatment for "curing" homosexuality as it does for curing a love of chocolate or book reading.

Mon, 28 Mar 2011 10:24:07 UTC | #608240

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 19 by Alan4discussion

Comment 16 by Tord M

The most reliable evidence suggest that sexual preference is determined during pregnancy, is more or less permanently fixed in the brain and can't be easily changed later in life by any pill or "cure".

It would be interesting to see the evidence on this. In crocodiles the actual sex of the individual is determined by the temperature of the nest in which they hatch!

Comment 10 by PhilipK

Rather, on a more optimistic note, this may be a step closer to showing that emotions are not spiritual but chemical.

It would be a lot easier than converting the Godless: a quick bash at the right bit of the brain, and they could be as religious and righteous as you. New research into brain-damaged patients has shown that damage to the left and right posterior parietal regions brings on spiritual feelings.

I know, but don't let the fundies know or they will be launching a cure for atheism next!

Mon, 28 Mar 2011 12:04:44 UTC | #608264

Tord M's Avatar Comment 20 by Tord M

Comment 17 by keddaw :

While it might be nice to think that you could be in total control of your sexuality, how would you feel if the person you're sleeping with had to take a pill each day to make you appear attractive to them? Don't know about you, but I don't think that would feel very good...

Well, as long as it was his own free choice, I can't see anything wrong with it...

But to serious; I find the whole idea about wanting to control or changes ones own or somebody else's sexuality quite idiotic and tragic.

Mon, 28 Mar 2011 12:11:57 UTC | #608266

Tord M's Avatar Comment 21 by Tord M

Comment 19 by Alan4discussion :

Comment 16 by Tord M

The most reliable evidence suggest that sexual preference is determined during pregnancy, is more or less permanently fixed in the brain and can't be easily changed later in life by any pill or "cure".

It would be interesting to see the evidence on this. In crocodiles the actual sex of the individual is determined by the temperature of the nest in which they hatch!

Unfortunately the most reliable evidence, isn't yet very reliable, so "evidence" wasn't really the best choice of words. Understandably but unfortunately there seems to be some taboos about this kind of research. Maybe scientists try to avoid doing biological research on humans on issues such as this, to avoid moral controversy or criticism? Might not be politically correct? If that's the case, I think it's a great shame.

Mon, 28 Mar 2011 12:25:11 UTC | #608272

Ivan The Not So Bad's Avatar Comment 22 by Ivan The Not So Bad

Comment 16 by Tord M

I believe a lot of heterosexuals would also like to try a temporary "homo-pill" too.

Ah, this would be a homopathic pill perhaps? An infinate dilution of Kylie that somehow retains a memory of her hit records? Can't Get You Outta My Head, as it were...........

Mon, 28 Mar 2011 12:42:53 UTC | #608278

robotaholic's Avatar Comment 23 by robotaholic

This has nothing to do with humanoids. The lack of saratonin makes lab mice lose their sexual preference. It doesn't make them gay. The addition of several hormones can also make mice live longer. Relevance? This doesnt even scale.

Mon, 28 Mar 2011 15:21:47 UTC | #608327

SheilaC's Avatar Comment 24 by SheilaC

Loved Keith's comment (#7)

There are probably dozens of things that affect sexual preference. To misquote Kipling

"There are nine and sixty ways

Of deciding who to lay

And every single one of them is right."

And with almost 7 billion of us on the planet, I can't help thinking there's a lot to be said for sex that doesn't produce babies.

Mon, 28 Mar 2011 15:56:18 UTC | #608340

Cartomancer's Avatar Comment 25 by Cartomancer

I've just thought - does this serotonin denial result in the mice actually changing the gender they prefer to mate with, or does it just prevent them from being able to identify (via neurochemical signals) which gender another mouse actually is? If the latter then you haven't created gay mice at all, just heterosexual mice which can't tell the genders apart. It'd be rather like blindfolding and blocking the hearing of heterosexual humans and then asking them to try to find a mate like that.

Mon, 28 Mar 2011 18:20:20 UTC | #608389

Tord M's Avatar Comment 26 by Tord M

Comment 25 by Cartomancer :

I've just thought - does this serotonin denial result in the mice actually changing the gender they prefer to mate with, or does it just prevent them from being able to identify (via neurochemical signals) which gender another mouse actually is? If the latter then you haven't created gay mice at all, just heterosexual mice which can't tell the genders apart. It'd be rather like blindfolding and blocking the hearing of heterosexual humans and then asking them to try to find a mate like that.

I suspect that they have just blocked the ability to identify the gender by smell. But mice are not blind, and it's not unlikely that they are able identify gender visually too. It's said in the article that "Sexual behavior in mice is thought to be driven by their sense of smell". In that case it would be interesting to know whether the sense of smell always overrides the visual (or "conscious" as we might say) identification. And if such things can happen in mice, it could in humans too. Research has shown that women prefer the smell of men with immune systems different from and therefor complimentary to their own. So if some male babies are by some fluke predisposed from birth to prefer the smell of males, that might "steer them towards homosexuality" by learning to associate the smell with the male appearance, so to say. Might not sound like a very likely explanation, and I know that people react to such hypothesis, and I know there's must be a whole more to it that that, but I think it's those kind of strange things that we should expect. (Not that it matters, but I a can clearly remember being very aware of the very different smells of males and females at at age 3 or 4)

Mon, 28 Mar 2011 19:12:09 UTC | #608402

Tord M's Avatar Comment 27 by Tord M

Comment 26 by Tord M :

Comment 25 by Cartomancer :

I've just thought - does this serotonin denial result in the mice actually changing the gender they prefer to mate with, or does it just prevent them from being able to identify (via neurochemical signals) which gender another mouse actually is? If the latter then you haven't created gay mice at all, just heterosexual mice which can't tell the genders apart. It'd be rather like blindfolding and blocking the hearing of heterosexual humans and then asking them to try to find a mate like that.

I suspect that they have just blocked the ability to identify the gender by smell. But mice are not blind, and it's not unlikely that they are able identify gender visually too. It's said in the article that "Sexual behavior in mice is thought to be driven by their sense of smell". In that case it would be interesting to know whether the sense of smell always overrides the visual (or "conscious" as we might say) identification. And if such things can happen in mice, it could in humans too. Research has shown that women prefer the smell of men with immune systems different from and therefor complimentary to their own. So if some male babies are by some fluke predisposed from birth to prefer the smell of males, that might "steer them towards homosexuality" by learning to associate the smell with the male appearance, so to say. Might not sound like a very likely explanation, and I know that people react to such hypothesis, and I know there's must be a whole more to it that that, but I think it's those kind of strange things that we should expect. (Not that it matters, but I a can clearly remember being very aware of the very different smells of males and females at of age 3 or 4)

Mon, 28 Mar 2011 19:21:53 UTC | #608406

MackTheTemp's Avatar Comment 28 by MackTheTemp

Comment 23 by robotaholic :

This has nothing to do with humanoids. The lack of saratonin makes lab mice lose their sexual preference. It doesn't make them gay. The addition of several hormones can also make mice live longer. Relevance? This doesnt even scale.

Losing their sexual preference means they are no longer heterosexual assuming that they were heterosexual to begin with. Perhaps bi-sexual is more appropriate?

When a male mounts a male and performs a mating call, do you not consider that to be homo-sexual behavior in mice?

Mon, 28 Mar 2011 22:09:39 UTC | #608451

The Berzerker's Avatar Comment 29 by The Berzerker

Comment 6 by Tord M :

Looks like science has finally found a way to treat heterosexuality in mice. But human heterosexuals should not get their hopes up too high yet. Years of clinical research and testing must still be expected before a similar cure will be made available to them.

LOOOOOL

Mon, 28 Mar 2011 22:11:33 UTC | #608452

BenS's Avatar Comment 30 by BenS

Why would moving from homosexuality to heterosexuality be a 'cure'? Surely moving both camps to bisexuality would be the 'cure'.

"I dislike apples but like bananas!" : "We can cure your dislike of apples, but then you'll dislike bananas." "I dislike bananas but like apples!" : "We can cure your dislike of bananas, but then you'll dislike apples."

"I dislike either apples or bananas!" : "We can cure you so you'll like both."

Tue, 29 Mar 2011 14:30:39 UTC | #608715