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Behav Neurosci. 2013 Feb;127(1):47-58. doi: 10.1037/a0031528.

Male rats that differ in novelty exploration demonstrate distinct patterns of sexual behavior.

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Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience Institute, University of Michigan, 205 Zina Pitcher Place, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA.


High- versus low-novelty exploration predicts a variety of behavioral differences. For example, rats selectively bred for high-novelty exploration (bred-high responders, bHR) exhibit exaggerated aggression, impulsivity, and proclivity to addictive behaviors compared with low-novelty reactive rats (bred-low responders, bLRs), which are characterized by a high anxiety/depressive-like phenotype. Since bHR/bLR rats exhibit differences in dopaminergic circuitry and differential response to rewarding stimuli (i.e., psychostimulants, food), the present study examined whether they also differ in another key hedonic behavior-sex. Thus, adult bHR/bLR males were given five 30-min opportunities to engage in sexual activity with a receptive female. Sexual behavior and motivation were examined and compared between the groups. The bHR/bLR phenotype affected both sexual motivation and behavior, with bLR males demonstrating reduced motivation for sex compared with bHR males (i.e., fewer animals copulated, longer latency to engage in sex). The bHR males required more intromissions at a faster pace per ejaculation than did bLR males. Thus, neurobiological differences that affect motivation for drugs of abuse, aggression, and impulsivity in rats also affect sexual motivation and performance.

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