Dopamine and serotonin: influences on male sexual behavior

Physiol Behav. 2004 Nov 15;83(2):291-307. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2004.08.018.


Steroid hormones regulate sexual behavior primarily by slow, genomically mediated effects. These effects are realized, in part, by enhancing the processing of relevant sensory stimuli, altering the synthesis, release, and/or receptors for neurotransmitters in integrative areas, and increasing the responsiveness of appropriate motor outputs. Dopamine has facilitative effects on sexual motivation, copulatory proficiency, and genital reflexes. Dopamine in the nigrostriatal tract influences motor activity; in the mesolimbic tract it activates numerous motivated behaviors, including copulation; in the medial preoptic area (MPOA) it controls genital reflexes, copulatory patterns, and specifically sexual motivation. Testosterone increases nitric oxide synthase in the MPOA; nitric oxide increases basal and female-stimulated dopamine release, which in turn facilitates copulation and genital reflexes. Serotonin (5-HT) is primarily inhibitory, although stimulation of 5-HT(2C) receptors increases erections and inhibits ejaculation, whereas stimulation of 5-HT(1A) receptors has the opposite effects: facilitation of ejaculation and, in some circumstances, inhibition of erection. 5-HT is released in the anterior lateral hypothalamus at the time of ejaculation. Microinjections of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors there delay the onset of copulation and delay ejaculation after copulation begins. One means for this inhibition is a decrease in dopamine release in the mesolimbic tract.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dopamine / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamus / physiology
  • Male
  • Nitric Oxide / metabolism
  • Preoptic Area / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Serotonin / physiology*
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Sex Factors
  • Sexual Behavior / physiology*
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Testosterone / metabolism


  • Nitric Oxide
  • Serotonin
  • Testosterone
  • Dopamine