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Centrally Released Oxytocin Mediates Mating-Induced Anxiolysis in Male Rats
Martin Waldherr and Inga D. Neumann
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Vol. 104, No. 42 (Oct. 16, 2007), pp. 16681-16684
Published by: National Academy of Sciences
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25450112
Page Count: 4
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Sexual activity and mating are accompanied by a high level of arousal, whereas anecdotal and experimental evidence demonstrate that sedation and calmness are common phenomena in the postcoital period in humans. These remarkable behavioral consequences of sexual activity contribute to a general feeling of well being, but underlying neurobiological mechanisms are largely unknown. Here, we demonstrate that sexual activity and mating with a receptive female reduce the level of anxiety and increase risk-taking behavior in male rats for several hours. The neuropeptide oxytocin has been shown to exert multiple functions in male and female reproduction, and to play a key role in the regulation of emotionality after its peripheral and central release, respectively. In the present study, we reveal that oxytocin is released within the brain, specifically within the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus, of male rats during mating with a receptive female. Furthermore, blockade of the activated brain oxytocin system by central administration of an oxytocin receptor antagonist immediately after mating prevents the anxiolytic effect of mating, while having no effect in nonmated males. These findings provide direct evidence for an essential role of an activated brain oxytocin system mediating the anxiolytic effect of mating in males.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America © 2007 National Academy of Sciences