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Excitotoxic lesions of the tegmental pedunculopontine nucleus impair copulation in naive male rats and block the rewarding effects of copulation in experienced male rats

Authors

  • Tod E. Kippin,

    1. Neurobiology Research Group, Department of Anatomy & Cell Biology, University of Toronto, 1 King's College Circle, Toronto, Ontario, M5S 1A8, Canada
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  • Derek Van Der Kooy

    1. Neurobiology Research Group, Department of Anatomy & Cell Biology, University of Toronto, 1 King's College Circle, Toronto, Ontario, M5S 1A8, Canada
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: Dr Tod E. Kippin, as above.
E-mail: tod.kippin@utoronto.ca

Abstract

The tegmental pedunculopontine nucleus (TPP) of the brainstem mediates food reward in food-sated animals and opiate reward in drug-naive animals. In the present study, we examine the effect of excitotoxic lesions of the TPP on sexual behaviour in naive and experienced male rats. Male, Long-Evans rats received either 0.25 µL injections of NMDA (4.2 µg/side) or vehicle (shams) into the TPP. In sexually naive males, complete bilateral TPP lesions decreased all measure of copulation (i.e. mounts, intromissions and ejaculations), prevented acquisition of conditioned sexual excitement, decreased approach preference for a receptive female over a non-receptive one, and decreased non-contact erections; unilateral or bilateral posterior-sparing TPP lesions did not affect any of these measures. Conversely, in sexually experienced males, lesions not only failed to disrupt copulation, but also increased conditioned sexual excitement, decreased post-ejaculatory interval and blocked the effect of prolonged copulation on conditioned sexual excitement. Following differential pairing of distinctive environments with and without copulation, sham males with sexual experience displayed a significant preference for the environment paired with copulation, whereas the lesion males with sexual experience displayed a significant aversion for the environment paired with copulation. These findings indicate that the TPP is critical for the acquisition of copulation in naive males and mediates the rewarding consequences of copulation in experienced males. Together these findings demonstrate that the TPP mediates sexual reward, but that sexual experience is not sufficient to produce a deprivation state.

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