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Horm Behav. 2007 Jan;51(1):104-13. Epub 2006 Oct 2.

Ventromedial hypothalamic nucleus lesions disrupt olfactory mate recognition and receptivity in female ferrets.

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  • 1Department of Biology, Boston University, Boston, MA 02215, USA.

Abstract

Previous research showed that ferrets of both sexes rely on the perception of conspecifics' body odors to identify and motivate approach towards opposite-sex mating partners, and exposure to male body odors stimulated Fos expression in an olfactory projection circuit of female, but not male, ferrets that terminates in the ventromedial hypothalamic nucleus (VMH). We asked whether the female-typical preference of ferrets to approach male as opposed to female body odors in Y-maze tests would be disrupted by VMH lesions. Sexually experienced female ferrets were ovo-hysterectomized prior to receiving bilateral electrolytic lesions of the VMH, the preoptic area/anterior hypothalamus (POA/AH) or a sham operation. Subsequently, while receiving estradiol benzoate, females that received either complete or partial bilateral lesions of the VMH approached volatile odors from an anesthetized male on significantly fewer trials than females given POA/AH lesions or a sham operation. Both groups of ferrets with VMH lesion damage reliably discriminated between volatile anal scents as well as urinary odors from the 2 sexes in home cage habituation/dishabituation tests, suggesting that their odor-based sex discrimination remained intact. Females with complete bilateral VMH lesions showed significantly lower acceptance of neck gripping from a stimulus male (receptivity) and more aggression towards the male than all other groups of female subjects. Estrogen-sensitive neurons in the VMH appear to play a central role in female-typical neural processing of odor inputs leading to a preference to seek out a male sex partner, in addition to facilitating females' sexual receptivity.

PMID:
17011561
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC2263133
Free PMC Article
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