Sexual behavior increases dopamine transmission in the nucleus accumbens and striatum of male rats: comparison with novelty and locomotion

Behav Neurosci. 1992 Feb;106(1):181-91. doi: 10.1037//0735-7044.106.1.181.


Extracellular concentrations of dopamine (DA) and its metabolites dihydroxyphenylacetic acid (DOPAC) and homovanillic acid (HVA) were examined concurrently, using in vivo microdialysis, in the nucleus accumbens and dorsal striatum of sexually active male rats during tests of locomotor activity, exposure to a novel chamber, exposure to sex odors, the presentation of a sexually receptive female, and copulation. DA increased significantly in the nucleus accumbens when the males were presented with a sexually receptive female behind a screen and increased further during copulation. Although DA also increased significantly in the dorsal striatum during copulation, the magnitude of the effect was significantly lower than that observed in the nucleus accumbens. In contrast, forced locomotion on a rotating drum, exposure to a novel chamber, and exposure to sex odors did not increase DA significantly in either region, although both DOPAC and HVA increased significantly in both regions during the locomotion test. These results indicate that novelty or locomotor activity alone cannot account for the increased extracellular DA concentrations observed in the nucleus accumbens of male rats during the presentation of a sexually receptive female behind a screen, nor can they account for the increased DA concentrations observed in both the nucleus accumbens and dorsal striatum of male rats during copulation. The preferential increase in DA transmission in the nucleus accumbens, compared with that in the striatum, suggests that anticipatory and consummatory aspects of sexual activity may belong to a class of naturally occurring events with reward values that are mediated by DA release in the nucleus accumbens.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 3,4-Dihydroxyphenylacetic Acid / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Arousal / physiology*
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Copulation / physiology
  • Corpus Striatum / physiology*
  • Dopamine / physiology*
  • Female
  • Homovanillic Acid / metabolism
  • Locomotion / physiology*
  • Male
  • Nucleus Accumbens / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Receptors, Dopamine / physiology
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology*


  • Receptors, Dopamine
  • 3,4-Dihydroxyphenylacetic Acid
  • Dopamine
  • Homovanillic Acid