Administration of an oxytocin receptor antagonist attenuates sexual motivation in male rats

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Abstract

In male rats, oxytocin impacts both sexual arousal and certain types of consummatory sexual behaviors. However, the role of oxytocin in the motivational aspects of sexual behavior has received limited attention. Given the role that oxytocin signaling plays in consummatory sexual behaviors, it was hypothesized that pharmacological attenuation of oxytocin signaling would reduce sexual motivation in male rats. Sexually experienced Long-Evans male rats were administered either an oxytocin receptor antagonist (L368,899 hydrochloride; 1 mg/kg) or vehicle control into the intraperitoneal cavity 40 min prior to placement into the center chamber of a three-chambered arena designed to assess sexual motivation. During the 20-minute test, a sexually experienced stimulus male rat and a sexually receptive stimulus female rat were separately confined to smaller chambers that were attached to the larger end chambers of the arena. However, physical contact between test and stimulus rats was prevented by perforated dividers. Immediately following the sexual motivation test, test male rats were placed with a sexually receptive female to examine consummatory sexual behaviors. Although both drug and vehicle treated rats exhibited a preference for the female, treatment with an oxytocin receptor antagonist decreased the amount of time spent with the female. There were no differences between drug and vehicle treated rats in either general activity, exploratory behaviors, the amount of time spent near the stimulus male rat, or consummatory sexual behaviors. Extending previous findings, these results indicate that oxytocin receptors are involved in sexual motivation in male rats.

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