The role of the dorsolateral tegmentum in the control of male sexual behavior: A reevaluation

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The medial preoptic area/anterior hypothalamus (MPOA/AH) plays a key role in the control of male sexual behavior. Independently of the type, MPOA/AH lesions permanently eliminate male sexual behavior in the rat. The MPOA/AH projects among other structures to the dorsolateral tegmentum (DLT). Bilateral electrolytic lesions of the DLT or the unilateral electrolytic destruction of the MPOA/HA combined with a contralateral electrolytic lesion of the DLT eliminate male sexual behavior. In the present experiment, we evaluated if neurotoxic lesions of the DLT produce the same behavioral deficits as those observed after electrolytic lesions. This would allow us to evaluate if neurons of the DLT or the fibers passing through this area are important in the control of male sexual behavior. To this aim, sexually experience male rats were tested for socio-sexual behavior, partner preference and motor execution in order to determine if the possible behavioral changes could be attributed to alterations in sexual motivation or motor execution. One week after the bilateral DLT lesions the animals were evaluated in the same behavioral tests. The lesions were identified by glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) and neuronal nuclear protein (Neu-N) immunohistochemistry. No significant consistent effects upon sexual behavior were observed in any of the groups, including the group with clear bilateral damage of the DLT. A reduction in the percentage of males displaying ejaculation in the first post-lesion test was observed for all groups injected with quinolinic acid. No effects upon partner preference or motor coordination were observed after the lesion in any of the groups. The lack of effect of DLT neurotoxic lesions upon mating suggests that neurons of this structure are not involved in the control of male sexual behavior.

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