Apparently for men, there is one thing more important than the basic human need for nourishment — and that is the basic human need for sex. Confirming what some people may have already suspected, new research suggests that (surprise) men's brains are wired to seek out sex over food.
But before we get ahead of ourselves, I should probably mention that it's actually male worms that have demonstrably prioritized intercourse over sustenance — though there's research to suggest the same could be true for people as well. In a University of Rochester study published in the journal Current Biology, researchers conducted tests involving microscopic roundworms called C. elegans, whose neurological capacities have often been used to understand the human brain. Although humans are obviously far more complex than roundworms, findings generated by studying these creatures can often be applied to other members of the animal kingdom.
Prior to the study, it was discovered that "female" worms would prioritize finding food, whereas males would abandon a food source in search of finding a mate, even if that meant ending up dead on a petri dish. Now, however, researchers have also learned that female roundworms produce more receptors that are sensitive to the smell of food. According to Douglas Portman, the lead author of the study, "Part of the reason the males leave food to mate is that they don't smell it as well." When some of the male worms were genetically modified to produce more of these receptors, for instance, they were less successful at mating. Biologically speaking, it would then appear that normal male roundworms are hardwired to seek out sex.
With humans, however, it's harder to tell. Portman tells The Washington Post that "social and cultural factors clearly have a very strong — and maybe even dominant — contribution to sex differences in human behavior." Even if the male brain does resemble the roundworm's in that they prefer sex over food, there's still the possibility that environment will alter men's preferences. Still, Portman says that "there is a growing appreciation that there are biologically-based differences in the nervous systems themselves."
This also has larger consequences beyond simply knowing what turns men on the most. According to Portman, these types of neurological preferences "show that by tuning the properties of a single cell, we can change behavior." They also provide a potential explanation for behavioral differences between the sexes, and even the difference in disease susceptibility among men and women. Studying certain genetic factors, for instance, has revealed that women are more susceptible to Alzheimer's, while men are more prone to things like heart disease.
So while it's helpful to know that your man may be more interested in you than the food in front of him, perhaps these findings can serve a greater purpose by helping us to better understand our bodies, and even prevent diseases among both men and women.