Men may have bits of their brain entirely devoted to seeking sex - even at the expense of food.
A study published in the journal Nature analysed the differences between two sexes of Nematode worms.
These worms have two sexes: male and hermaphrodite, which are essentially "modified females” but produce their own sperm so do not need a male to reproduce.
Although these neurons were found to exist only in the male species, researchers at University College London and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine say the findings could “give us a perspective” to understand varieties in sex when it comes to humans.
The newly discovered brain cell was tested using classical conditioning. Using salt as a stimulus, the worms learnt to associate salt with unpleasant or pleasant experiences.
For example, worms starved in the presence of salt then moved away from high concentrations of salt in a new environment, as they associated it with lack of food.
However, worms starved in the presence of mates as well as salt sought higher concentrations of salt in a new environment.
Researchers concluded the preference of more salt meant the association of salt with finding a mate and having sex was stronger than the association of salt and no food, attributing this to the neuron found only in males.
Senior author Dr Arantza Barrios said: “We’ve shown how genetic and developmental differences between the two sexes lead to structural changes in the brain of male worms during sexual maturation.”
“These changes make male brains work differently, allowing males to remember previous sexual encounters and prioritise sex in future situations,” she said.
Co-author of the study, Professor Scott Emmons said: “Though the work is carried out in a small worm, it nevertheless gives us a perspective that helps us appreciate and possibly understand the variety of human sexuality, sexual orientation, and gender identification.”
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