Friday Weird Science: Rabbits, Cell Phones, and Sex

Mar 18 2011 Published by under Friday Weird Science, Uncategorized

NOTE: Sci received word on 3/26/2012 that this study will be RETRACTED, due to "lack of approval of the article by co-authors, lack of evidence to justify the accuracy of the data presented in the article and overlap of data and figures between this article and two others". So take this study with that much LARGER a grain of salt.  And let it be known that Sci is ANNOYED by this.

 

 

Thank you. -Sci

Sci recently covered a study on the effects that cell phones might have on your brain (but as to WHAT those brain effects might DO...well nobody knows. And the effects are really small. So nobody panic.) But now it's time to cover the more important facet of constantly carrying around a cell phone: what does it do to your SEX LIFE?

After all, guys are walking around carrying these cell phones, usually in their front pockets and thus pretty near the balls, all day long (presumably its not such a problem in women, as more women carry their phones around in bags or purses, and not next to the uterus). But what does that cell phone DO to sexual behavior?

BRING IN THE RABBITS.

Salama et al. "Effects of exposure to a mobile phone on sexual behavior in adult male rabbit: an observational study" International Journal of Impotence Research, 2010.


(This little guy is about to have the time of his little rabbit life. And it comes with a free cell phone plan! Source)

So it turns out that there has been more than one study on how the testicles of humans and other animals (what, you're saying your dog DOESN'T have his own cell phone?! It's 2011!!) respond to close cell phone proximity. But this is the first one so far looking at sexual behavior (probably because if you ask the humans who are in these studies about their libido, most of them would lie to you).

So they started out by giving a whole bunch of rabbits a whole bunch of rabbit ladies. They watched the rabbits get it on...like rabbits. Each lady was introduced for 3 min. The rabbit did his best, and then the lady rabbit was replaced with ANOTHER lady rabbit. DO IT AGAIN! AND AGAIN! In fact, each rabbit got SIX rabbit ladies, in a row, at three minute intervals, once a week for three weeks, to determine the male's sexual profile. That's some speedy rabbit sex. And you thought you were bad when you were 15!

Then they had to expose the rabbits to the cell phone. To do this, they kept the rabbits in a very small cage where they couldn't turn around, and put a cell phone (on standby for the on condition) under the rabbit, right under the balls (I guess little rabbit jeans with cell phone pockets were out of the question). The rabbits stayed on the cell phone for 8 hours a day (I have to imagine there was a lot of rabbit poop on those cell phones by the time they were done). The cell phones were applied daily like this for 12 weeks. No record of what kind of cell phone it was. Because the restraining like this might be stressful, they added a group that was kept in the small cage with an OFF cell phone, and one that got no cage at all. They took rectal temperatures twice a week, and looked at levels of stress hormones (cortisol), sex hormones (testosterone), and for dopamine.

And then, BRING ON THE LADIES. The rabbits were mated three times a week for two weeks after cell phone exposure, with the same setup, six rabbits ladies at 3 minute intervals. And of course, the whole time the experimenters were watching the rabbits go at it. (I'd love to run into some of these people at a bar somewhere..."so, what do you do?" "oh, I...watch rabbits have sex...I mean...not like that...it's for science!..."). The idea is to work the animals to sexual exhaustion, by using the Coolidge effect, which re-exposes a sexually sated animal to a new mating prospect. Often the "sated" animal finds he has a little bit left in him. When he doesn't, it's a sign that he really IS sexually exhausted.

They got no differences in any of the hormones (too bad really, I was hoping for some testosterone differences at least!), and they didn't even get any effects on sexual behavior. Rabbits exposed to cell phones humped just as hard and fast as those who weren't.

As for the Coolidge effect, it was there in abundance, but you can see below that there was no effect of cell phone exposure.

You can see that the second female rabbit caused the male rabbits to realize they were still pretty energetic, and though there's a bigger lag in the third female, the male rabbits never failed to rise to the challenge (you see what I did there).

But the rabbits with the cell phone exposure DID differ in one very important respect:

Ejaculations. You can see that the cell phone exposed rabbits (MP for mobile phone) had lower ejaculations overall (though there are no error bars and we're looking at the sum of only 6 rabbits per group, summed up over 216 matings and 26 test sessions. I personally think they should have just looked once).

And since it was their only piece of significant data, they graphed it twice:

This shows the percentage of mounts that ended in ejaculation for the cell phone group, the non cell phone but restrained group, and the controls. You can see that the cell phone group at fewer mounts that ended in ejaculations than the other two groups did.

Of course, the scientists couldn't blame the hormones (no changes in the hormones) or say they had reduced libido (they mounted with the same frequency), so what do they blame it on?

This may be
attributed to failure of the animals to attain an
erection or accomplish ejaculation

Yup, they blamed the poor rabbits for not being able to get it up. Personally, I'd like to see the penile evidence. It could be the erection, or it could be the ejaculation. And while you can't really record difficulty in ejaculating more than just decreased number, you CAN get video footage or other measures of the rabbit's carrot (heh).

Then, in a weird turn of events, the authors ran away from the sex part entirely and...

However, we may
attribute such changes in sexual behavior to oxida-
tive stress occurring in the brain tissue, including
supraspinal areas, which are well known to control,
beside hormonal factors, male sexual function
including erection and ejaculation. This oxidative
stress might affect the numerous neurotransmitters
coming out of the brain tissue, including oxytocin,
which has been reported to be able to decrease the
latency to the first ejaculation and to retard the
sexual exhaustion of male rabbits paired with
receptive females. In support of our explanation,
three lines of evidence were present. First, aggres-
sive behavioral changes, such as grasping and biting,
were observed in the MP animals. Previous studies
have related oxidative stress in the brain to the
development of such aggressive changes. Second,
the MPs used in this study had a carrier frequency of
800 MHz and the animal model used was the rabbit.
A large number of studies have reported the
occurrence of oxidative stress in brain tissues with
the use of MPs with a similar carrier frequency and
the same animal model or other close rodents such
as rats. Third, the same group of MP animals
represented the subjects of another two studies.
Both indicated the negative influence of MPs on
testicular function and structure and semen fruc-
tose. Interestingly, these retrieved findings were
related to the oxidative stress occurring in the testes
and accessory genital organs of the animals.

Wait, WUT. This came out of left field for me. First off, there are ways to MEASURE oxidative stress. Those weren't used here. So you can blame the oxidative stress all you like, but until you show me some ROS (reactive oxygen species) measurements in the brain and the balls, I'm not going to accept it as gospel. Secondly, they did get an increase in biting behaviors in the cell phone group...but is that the only measure of aggression? Can I get a resident/intruder test here please? And finally, while the radiation from a cell phone might be plenty to reach a rabbit's brain, what does that have to do with possible changes in humans? After all, the rabbit's brain is a lot closer to the cell phone, and the radiation probably doesn't reach that far on a human. Of course there's the times when we're using the cell phones to TALK, but most of us aren't doing that for 8 hours every day (now texting? That's another matter).

So while I don't know what caused these rabbits to suffer from a certain lack of spunk (LOL!), I don't think they really know either. But in any case, dudes, this might be a good time to move your cell phone...out of your front pocket.

Salama, N., Kishimoto, T., Kanayama, H., & Kagawa, S. (2009). Effects of exposure to a mobile phone on sexual behavior in adult male rabbit: an observational study International Journal of Impotence Research, 22 (2), 127-133 DOI: 10.1038/ijir.2009.57

Sexual behavior? I think we're all far more interested in the "vibrate" function.

Maybe he just got distracted, I mean, what if he was getting a call? An email? Gotta live tweet this awesome rabbit-babe experience, you guys.

REALLY low n's only 6 per group, which means one outlier can really throw you off. To get around this, they tested the dudes over and over and over again, which I'm not really sure gets around the problem in this case.

9 responses so far

  • Jason Dick says:

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't this study also not blinded? It would seem to me that would be a rather important component of a study like this...

  • Weird. It almost sounds like the authors had this explanation already fixed in their mind and didn't care that their experimental setup was off in another field.

    Or...(after re-reading the 3rd statement in their conclusion)...
    "Third, the same group of MP animals
    represented the subjects of another two studies.
    Both indicated the negative influence of MPs on
    testicular function and structure and semen fruc-
    tose. Interestingly, these retrieved findings were
    related to the oxidative stress occurring in the testes
    and accessory genital organs of the animals."

    Perhaps the other two studies are where the authors are getting this oxidative stress idea form. If that's the case, this study should have been included in THAT paper, but maybe got clipped due to journal length requirements.

  • First of all, great article. I LOL'd a few times. Definitely glad that I caught you on Skeptically Speaking - will definitely be reading this blog regularly.

    Question, you wrote"Then they had to expose the rabbits to the cell phone. To do this, they kept the rabbits in a very small cage where they couldn’t turn around,"

    Could the close confinement have had any effect on the rabbit libido? Or were they in cramped quarters before they were tested with the cell phones?

    • scicurious says:

      Glad you like. :)

      This is why they had a "stress" condition, where they kept the rabbits in the same cages where they couldn't turn around, but without cell phone exposure. You can see there are three groups: Cell phone, stressed, and control. The stressed group was in the same small cage.

  • Katie says:

    So did they just have hundreds of lady rabbits hanging out waiting to get banged or did they reuse the same ladies? If they were getting it that often I would think some would have gotten knocked up and that may cause an effect as well. I don't know that for sure, of course, since pregnant bunnies aren't my area of research but the hormonal changes could probably have an effect if, say, the cell phone group got more pregnant ladies than the other group.

  • [...] 資料來源: Friday Weird Science: Rabbits, Cell Phones, and Sex [...]

  • [...] put his goddamn phone away (and yes, I myself have that problem with the man in my life). For the study published in the International Journal of Impotence Research, scientists strapped cell phones underneath the balls of male bunnies for eight hours a day. Their [...]

  • Greg Laden says:

    Be annoyed as well about the comments that the retraction is leading to. A paper that suggests a danger, that ends up being a broken paper, does not prove safety. It suggests nothing.

    Most likely the sorts of radiation (and levels) that come out of cell phones are unlikely to affect cells, so the default position should probably be to not worry if you are a rabbit ... go ahead and use the cell phones, bunnies! ... but positive statements about safety are out of order. A broken study does not prove safety any more than it proves non-safety.

    And it is important to be clear and to keep this simple because rabbits are easily confused.