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Behav Neurosci. 2013 Oct;127(5):755-62. doi: 10.1037/a0033945. Epub 2013 Aug 26.

Either main or accessory olfactory system signaling can mediate the rewarding effects of estrous female chemosignals in sexually naive male mice.

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Department of Biology.


A long-held view has been that interest of male mice in female body odors reflects an activation of reward circuits in the male brain following their detection by the vomeronasal organ (VNO) and processing via the accessory olfactory system. We found that adult, sexually naive male mice acquired a conditioned place preference (CPP) after repeatedly receiving estrous female urine on the nose and being placed in an initially nonpreferred chamber with soiled estrous bedding on the floor. CPP was not acquired in control mice that received saline on the nose before being placed in a nonpreferred chamber with clean bedding. Robust acquisition of a CPP using estrous female odors as the reward persisted in separate groups of mice in which VNO-accessory olfactory function was disrupted by bilateral lesioning of the accessory olfactory bulb (AOB) or in which main olfactory function was disrupted by zinc sulfate lesions of the main olfactory epithelium (MOE). By contrast, no CPP was acquired for estrous odors in males that received combined AOB and MOE lesions. Either the main or the accessory olfactory system suffices to mediate the rewarding effects of estrous female odors in the male mouse, even in the absence of prior mating experience. The main olfactory system is part of the circuitry that responds to chemosignals involved in motivated behavior, a role that may be particularly important for humans who lack a functional accessory olfactory system.

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