Sexual behavior increases c-fos expression in the forebrain of the male rat

Brain Res. 1991 Nov 15;564(2):352-7. doi: 10.1016/0006-8993(91)91477-i.


The ability of a wide variety of pharmacological and physiological stimuli to increase neuronal expression of Fos has led to the suggestion that it might serve as a marker of neuronal activation. Psychomotor stimulants increase the release of dopamine from the terminals of nigrostriatal and mesolimbic neurons and enhance Fos immunoreactivity in the striatum and nucleus accumbens (NAc). Because sexual behavior also increases dopamine release in these and other forebrain regions, the present study examined the effect of copulation on Fos immunoreactivity in the forebrain of intact, sexually active male rats. Sexual behavior produced a striking increase in Fos immunoreactivity in the medial preoptic area (MPOA), NAc, bed nucleus of the stria terminalis and piriform cortex. However, no increase in Fos immunoreactivity was observed in the striatum. These results are consistent with neurochemical, physiological, and behavioral data suggesting that the MPOA and NAc are important substrates of sexual behavior.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Chemistry / physiology*
  • Corpus Striatum / metabolism
  • Female
  • Male
  • Nucleus Accumbens / metabolism
  • Ovariectomy
  • Preoptic Area / metabolism
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos / biosynthesis*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos / immunology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / physiology*


  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos