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Keywords:

  • appetitive behaviour;
  • hippocampus;
  • nucleus taeniae of the amygdalu;
  • rhythmic cloacal sphincter movements;
  • sexual conditioning

Abstract

We investigated the effects of presenting a sexual conditioned stimulus on the expression of c-fos in male Japanese quail. Eight brain sites were selected for analysis based on previous reports of c-fos expression in these areas correlated with sexual behaviour or learning. Males received either paired or explicitly unpaired presentations of an arbitrary stimulus and visual access to a female. Nine conditioning trials were conducted, one per day, for each subject. On the day following the ninth trial, subjects were exposed to the conditional stimulus (CS) for 5 min. Conditioning was confirmed by analysis of rhythmic cloacal sphincter movements (RCSM), an appetitive sexual behaviour, made in response to the CS presentation. Subjects in the paired condition performed significantly more RCSM than subjects in the unpaired group. Brains were collected 90 min following the stimulus exposure and stained by immunohistochemistry for the FOS protein. Significant group differences in the number of FOS-immunoreactive (FOS-ir) cells were found in two brain regions, the nucleus taeniae of the amygdala (TnA) and the hippocampus (Hp). Subjects in the paired condition had fewer FOS-ir cells in both areas than subjects in the unpaired condition. These data provide additional support to the hypothesis that TnA is implicated in the expression of appetitive sexual behaviours in male quail and corroborate numerous previous reports of the involvement of the hippocampus in conditioning. Further, these data suggest that conditioned and unconditioned sexual stimuli activate different brain regions but have similar behavioural consequences.