Physiology of ejaculation: emphasis on serotonergic control

Eur Urol. 2005 Sep;48(3):408-17. doi: 10.1016/j.eururo.2005.05.017.


Ejaculation is constituted by two distinct phases, emission and expulsion. Orgasm, a feature perhaps unique in humans, is a cerebral process that occurs, in normal conditions, concomitantly to expulsion of semen. Normal antegrade ejaculation is a highly coordinated physiological process with emission and expulsion phases being under the control of autonomic and somatic nervous systems respectively. The central command of ejaculation is located at the thoracolumbar and lumbosacral levels of the spinal cord and is activated by stimuli from genital, mainly penile, origin although cerebral descending pathways exert both inhibitory and excitatory regulatory roles. Cerebral structures specifically activated during ejaculation form a tightly interconnected network comprising hypothalamic, diencephalic and pontine areas. A rational neurobiological approach has led to identify several neurotransmitters contributing to the ejaculatory process. Amongst them, serotonin (5-HT) has received strong experimental evidences indicating its inhibitory role in the central control of ejaculation. In particular, 5-HT1A cerebral autoreceptors but also spinal 5-HT1B and, in a lesser extent, 5-HT2C receptors have been shown to mediate the effects of 5-HT on ejaculation. Pharmacological strategies, especially those targeting serotonergic system, for the treatment of ejaculatory disorders in human will undoubtedly benefit from the application of basic and clinical research findings. In this perspective, the use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) which basically increase the amount of central 5-HT and delay ejaculation in humans seems promising.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Central Nervous System / physiology
  • Ejaculation / physiology*
  • Genitalia, Male / innervation
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Serotonin / pharmacology*
  • Spinal Cord / physiology


  • Serotonin