Sexual reward in male rats: effects of sexual experience on conditioned place preferences associated with ejaculation and intromissions

Horm Behav. 2009 Jan;55(1):93-7. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2008.08.012. Epub 2008 Sep 12.


Various behavioral models and studies have provided evidence suggesting that male rat sexual behavior has rewarding and reinforcing properties. However, there is little information regarding the rewarding values of the different components of sexual behavior. Therefore, this study used a conditioned place preference (CPP) paradigm to address whether ejaculation and intromissions differ in their rewarding incentive values. We also addressed whether the differential rewarding values were dependent on prior sexual experience. Sexually naïve and experienced males received one pairing of either intromissions or ejaculation with one of the chambers in the CPP box. The amount of time spent in each chamber of the CPP apparatus after conditioning was then measured. Both sexually naïve and sexually experienced males formed a CPP for ejaculation, while only sexually naïve, and not sexually experienced, males formed a CPP for intromissions. Moreover, in sexually naïve males, multiple pairings of ejaculation with the designated chamber resulted in a CPP relative to the control chamber paired with display of intromissions. These data support the hypothesis that there is a hierarchy of rewarding sexual behavior, with ejaculation being the most rewarding component, and that the rewarding incentive value of other components of sexual behavior is dependent upon prior sexual experience.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Association Learning
  • Conditioning, Psychological*
  • Copulation*
  • Ejaculation*
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Reinforcement, Psychology
  • Reward*
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal*
  • Spatial Behavior