Low levels of desire and arousal are the primary sexual dysfunctions in women, necessitating neurobiological studies of sexual motivation in female animal models. As the mesocorticolimbic system is a primary neural circuit underlying sexual motivation, the goal of this study was to test the hypothesis that medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) glutamate mediates sexual behavior activation of the nucleus accumbens. Glutamatergic neurons in the mPFC were activated by sex behavior, and these sex-activated cells shown to project to the nucleus accumbens. During sexual interactions with the male, glutamate transients recorded in the nucleus accumbens of female hamsters were specifically associated with the receipt of intromissions from the male. Further, inhibition of the mPFC during sex significantly decreased nucleus accumbens activation. Glutamatergic medial prefrontal cortical input to the nucleus accumbens mediates the activity in the nucleus accumbens during female sexual behavior. These results offer novel insights into the neurobiology of the motivational control of female sexual behavior and provide attractive avenues for pursuing target-specific and clinically-relevant therapies for sexual dysfunction in women.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We thank Alex Boettcher for his help with behavioral testing and immunocytochemical tissue processing/analysis. Histology plates were a generous gift from Ruth Wood. Funding. Research presented here was supported by National Science Foundation (NSF) grant IOS 1256799 (RM, PI) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant R01 HD100007 (RM, PI). KM was supported by NIH grants T32 DA007234 (Paul Mermelstein, PI) and T32 GM008471 (Timothy Ebner, PI). MG was supported by R25 NS083059 (RM, PI). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Science Foundation or the National Institutes of Health.
- medial prefrontal cortex
- nucleus accumbens
- sexual behavior