During mating in hamsters, both tactile and nontactile sensory stimulation experienced by the female affect sexual behavior and progestational neuroendocrine reflexes. To test the interactions of these types of mating stimulation, c-Fos immunohistochemistry measured brain cellular activity during sexual behavior under conditions that included combinations of tactile and nontactile mating stimulation. Test groups received: (1) mating stimulation from a male, females being either fully mated or mated while wearing a vaginal mask, or (2) experimenter applied manual vaginocervical stimulation (VCS) - with or without males present, or (3) handling similar to VCS but without insertions - with or without males present. Numbers of c-Fos immunoreactive cells were counted in specific subdivisions of the posterior medial amygdala (MeP) and ventromedial hypothalamus (VMH). The medial amygdala dorsal and ventral subdivisions responded differentially to components of mating stimulation. The posterodorsal Me (MePD) cellular activation was greatest during mating conditions that included VCS and/or males present. However, the posteroventral Me (MePV) was sensitive to male exposure and not to VCS. Also, MePV and VMH shell responses mirrored each other, both being primarily sensitive to male exposure. In separate tests, manual VCS induced pseudopregnancy, though the procedure was most effective with additional nontactile stimulation from males present. In summary, contextual cues provided by nontactile male stimulation enhance the effect of vaginocervical and other tactile stimulation on reproductive processes. Furthermore, c-Fos expression in the female hamster medial amygdala is region and context dependent.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We would like to thank Stephen Parker, Todd Mowery, and Brian Bombassaro for their assistance in the counting phase of the immunohistochemistry experiments. Deborah Shelley is now at The Rockefeller University, 1230 York Avenue, New York, NY 10021. This research was supported by NIH grants MH64289 (DNS) and DA13680 (RLM).
- Female sexual behavior
- Mating context
- Medial amygdala
- Vaginocervical stimulation
- Ventromedial hypothalamus