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Human pharmaceuticals change cricket personality

Human pharmaceuticals change cricket personality


– Our aim with this study was to see how
we could manipulate a type of brain chemical and how that might influence
an individual’s behavior and personality. Just like with humans,
some crickets are more active explorative or aggressive than others. Researchers at Linköping University have looked closer at two important
signal substances in the brain, serotonin and dopamine. These signal systems are found
in crickets and humans alike. We picked two pharmaceuticals
that are used on humans to alter the serotonin and
dopamine systems in the brain, and gave them to crickets. We observed how they behaved
when they were exposed to the drugs as compared to crickets that
were not exposed to the drug. The researchers measured
three behaviours in the crickets: activity, exploration and aggression. Activity was measured in a home environment how much they move in a familiar area. Exploration was measured as how long
it took them to emerge from their shelter in a new area and how
much they moved around. The crickets’ aggression was measured by
having the males do battle with each other. They wiggle their antennas at each other. Sometimes one will flip over and usually the winner makes a
victory song while the other runs away. The researchers found that the
drug that affects serotonin levels made the crickets less
active and less aggressive. a finding that can be important
from an ecological point of view. Individuals with lower activity or
aggression might not do so well finding food or securing mates. So as these human chemicals enter the
waste water and enter the natural world we might be changing the behaviour of animals. In terms of the basic question
we were asking it looks like serotonin is more important in defining
behaviour than dopamine in crickets.

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