Brain Res.

2006 Dec 18;1126(1):56-65. Epub 2006 Sep 15.

Meisel RL, Mullins AJ.


Department of Psychological Sciences, Purdue University, 703 Third Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907, USA. [email protected]


The neurobiology of female sexual behavior has largely focused on mechanisms of hormone action on nerve cells and how these effects translate into the display of copulatory motor patterns. Of equal importance, though less studied, are some of the consequences of engaging in sexual behavior, including the rewarding properties of sexual interactions and how sexual experience alters copulatory efficiency. This review summarizes the effects of sexual experience on reward processes and copulation in female Syrian hamsters. Neural correlates of these sexual interactions include long-term cellular changes in dopamine transmission and postsynaptic signaling pathways related to neuronal plasticity (e.g., dendritic spine formation). Taken together, these studies suggest that sexual experience enhances the reinforcing properties of sexual behavior, which has the coincident outcome of increasing copulatory efficiency in a way that can increase reproductive success.

Keywords: Copulation, sensitization, dopamine, nucleus accumbens, signaling, plasticity