Sexual differentiation of motivation: a novel mechanism?

Horm Behav. 2009 May;55(5):646-54. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2009.03.014.


Sex differences in motivation are apparent for the motivation to engage in sexual behavior, the motivation to take drugs of abuse, and the motivation to engage in parental behavior. In both males and females there is an increase in NAcc DA associated with motivated behaviors. Here it proposed that sex differences in the regulation of DA activity in the ascending mesolimbic projections may underlie sex differences in motivation. In particular, sex differences in the neuroendocrine regulation of this brain system play a role in the expression of sex differences in motivated behaviors. Here it is proposed that sexual differentiation of motivation is mediated, at least in part, by a novel mechanism in which ovarian hormones secreted at puberty in the female actively feminize the DA system.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior / physiology*
  • Behavior, Addictive
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Dopamine / physiology
  • Female
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Maternal Behavior
  • Motivation*
  • Reward
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Sex Differentiation / physiology*
  • Sex Factors
  • Sexual Behavior / physiology


  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones
  • Dopamine