(CNSNews.com) – The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded $181,406 this year to a researcher at the University of Kentucky to study how cocaine enhances the sex drive of Japanese quail.
“Controlled preclinical studies that utilize animal models have demonstrated that prior repeated exposure to cocaine enhances sexual motivation and behavior,” says the grant description posted by the NIH. “However, no parametric or systematic studies further investigating the basic mechanisms underlying this relationship have been conducted.
“The goal of the proposed experiments is to utilize an animal model whose sexual behavior system has been well-studied, Japanese quail,” the description says. “In addition to the benefits of using quail to study sexual behavior, the use of a visually-oriented species in studying drug effects may be of additional relevance to studying human drug addiction. We currently have preliminary evidence in male Japanese quail that preexposure to cocaine enhances sexual motivation. This finding ties in well with clinical observations that indicate that cocaine use in humans may increase sexual motivation, thereby increasing the likelihood of the occurrence of high-risk sexual behavior.”
The grant, “Enhancement of Sexual Motivation,” was awarded as part of a program conducted by the National Institute of Drug Abuse (a division of the NIH) that is intended to find ways to better treat or cure addiction in humans.
“The overall working hypothesis of this proposal is that the magnitude of the sexual response depends on several cocaine preexposure parameters including dose, amount of exposure, time between exposures, and the withdrawal period before sexual behavior testing,” says the grant description.
The study is currently underway and is scheduled to continue until 2015. So far, however, it has only been funded through the end of January 2011.
CNSNews.com asked the NIH: “The Census Bureau says the median household income in the United States is $52,000. How would you explain to the average American mom and dad--who make $52,000 per year--that taxing them to pay for this grant was justified?
NIH spokesman Don Rabolvsky said that the research has value because many cases of HIV/AIDS are spread through drug-related sexual behavior.
"Human behavior accounts for almost 40 percent of the risk associated with preventable premature deaths in the United States,” Rabolvsky said in an e-mail. “Health-injuring behaviors such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and drug abuse, as well as inactivity and poor diet are known to contribute to many common diseases and adverse health conditions.”
Rabolvsky continued, “The development of effective interventions for such risky behaviors depends on a robust scientific foundation of behavioral research that: Identifies the psychological, social, and cultural mechanisms of risk-taking behaviors and, as a result, provides insights into how those behaviors can be modified through interventions that target individual choices and the social, economic, policy, and cultural contexts in which those choices are made.”
The researcher at the University of Kentucky conducting the project did not respond to CNSNews.com’s inquiries about the project and the question about justifying the cost of the grant to the average taxpaying family.
According to information from the University of Kentucky’s Web site, Japanese quail are “ideal” animals to use when studying the link between sex and drugs because the “birds readily engage in reproductive behavior in the laboratory.”
The Web site also said, “Finally, quail provide a convenient and interesting alternative to standard laboratory rats and pigeons.”