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Brain Res. 1996 Oct 28;738(1):67-82.

Fos immunoreactivity in the rat brain following consummatory elements of sexual behavior: a sex comparison.

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Department of Anatomy and Embryology, Faculty of Medical Sciences, University of Nijmegen, The Netherlands.


In the present study a comparison was made between the distribution of Fos immunoreactivity in the brain of female and male rats following successive elements of sexual behavior. The distribution of Fos immunoreactivity following either mounting, eight intromissions or one or two ejaculations was compared with that in control animals. In both females, Fos immunoreactivity was induced in the medial preoptic nucleus, posteromedial part of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, posterodorsal part of the medial amygdala, and the parvicellular part of the subparafascicular thalamic nucleus. In addition, Fos immunoreactivity in females was induced in the ventrolateral part and the most caudoventral part of the ventromedial nucleus of the hypothalamus and in the premammillary nucleus. Differences between females and males were detected in the phases of sexual activity that resulted in Fos immunoreactivity in these brain areas, allowing more insight in the nature of the sensory and hormonal stimuli leading to the induction of Fos immunoreactivity. The posteromedial bed nucleus of the stria terminalis appears to be involved in chemosensory investigation, while specific distinct subregions are only activated following ejaculation. In addition, the parvicellular subparafascicular nucleus and the lateral part of the posterodorsal medial amygdala appear to be involved in the integration of viscero-sensory input. The neural circuitries underlying sexual behavior in males and females appear to be similar in terms of integration of sensory information. In males the medial preoptic nucleus may be regarded as the brain area where the integration of sensory and hormonal stimulation leads to the onset of male sexual behavior, while in females the ventrolateral part of the ventromedial hypothalamic nucleus appears to have this function. In addition, Fos immunoreactivity was distributed in distinct clusters in subregions with various brain areas in males and females. This was observed especially in the posteromedial bed nucleus of the stria terminalis and posterodorsal medial amygdala, but also in the parvicellular subparafascicular nucleus, ventromedial hypothalamic nucleus and ventral premammillary nucleus. It appears that relatively small subunits within these nuclei seem to be concerned with the integration of sensory and hormonal information and may play a critical role in sexual behavior.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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