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Nat Rev Urol. 2012 Sep;9(9):486-98. doi: 10.1038/nrurol.2012.151. Epub 2012 Aug 28.

Sex for fun: a synthesis of human and animal neurobiology.

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Department of Neuroscience (Section Anatomy), University Medical Centre Groningen, Antonius Deusinglaan 1, 9713AV, Groningen, The Netherlands.


Sex is a fundamental pleasure, and crucial to the survival of our species. Though not many people would disagree with the proposition that sexual behaviour depends on the brain, the neuroscientific study of human sex is still relatively taboo and much remains to be discovered. On the contrary, excellent experimental animal models (mostly rat) are available that have uncovered major behavioural, neurochemical, and neuroanatomical characteristics of sexual behaviour. Restructuring sexual behaviour into broader terms reflecting behavioural states (wanting, liking, and inhibition) facilitates species comparison, revealing many similarities between animal and human sexual pleasure cycles, some of which can serve as potential avenues of new human sex research. In particular, behavioural and brain evidence clearly shows that motivational and consummatory phases are fundamentally distinct, and that genitally-induced sexual reward is a major factor in sexual learning mechanisms.

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