How To Make Mice Bisexual

A new study shows that depriving male mice of the neurotransmitter serotonin makes them more likely to try to have sex with other males. But scientists note that these findings are not applicable to human sexuality.

According to the BBC, Chinese scientists bred male mice without serotonin. The mice became bisexual, equally willing to mate with males or females. And when presented with just another male, they were way more likely to mount it and "emit a 'mating call'" than were male mice with normal amounts of serotonin. A shot of the neurotransmitter, however, turned the bi mice straight again.

The study authors say, "This is the first time, to our knowledge, that a neurotransmitter in the brain has been demonstrated to be important in mammalian sexual preference." Which is interesting — but other scientists warn against using the research to draw conclusions about humans. Neuroscientist Keith Kendrick tells the BBC that "any potential links between serotonin and human sexual preferences must be considered somewhat tenuous." He explains,

There is some very limited evidence for altered responses to selective serotonin uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) in the brains of homosexuals, but 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.

So basically: as thought-provoking as this new research is (and somewhat disturbing — it's possible to imagine it as the basis of some chemically-enhanced version of reparative therapy), it's important to remember that people are not mice. Taking Prozac will not make you gay. Or straight. It will also not make you mount a male mouse and emit a mating call. Probably.

Sexual Preference Chemical Found In Mice [BBC]

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