Preclinical and clinical research investigating female sexual motivation has lagged behind research on male sexual function. The present review summarizes recent advances in our understanding of the specific roles of various brain areas, as well as our understanding of the role of dopaminergic neurotransmission in sexual motivation of the female rat. A number of behavioral paradigms that can be used to thoroughly evaluate sexual behavior in the female rat are first discussed. Although traditional assessment of the reflexive, lordosis posture has been useful in understanding the neuroanatomical and neurochemical systems that contribute to copulatory behavior, the additional behavioral paradigms described in this review have helped us expand our understanding of appetitive and consumatory behavioral patterns that better assess sexual motivation - the equivalent of "desire" in humans. A summary of numerous lesion studies indicates that different areas of the brain, including forebrain and midbrain structures, work together to produce the complex repertoire of female sexual behavior. In addition, by investigating the effects of commonly addictive drugs, we are beginning to elucidate the role of dopaminergic neurotransmission in female sexual motivation. Consequently, research in this area may contribute to meaningful advances in the treatment of human female sexual dysfunction.
Copyright 2009 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.