Simultaneous display of sexual and ingestive behaviour by rats

J Neuroendocrinol. 1992 Aug;4(4):381-92. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2826.1992.tb00184.x.


Intraoral infusion of sucrose activates consummatory ingestive behaviour in rats selectively, i.e. the rat only emits the responses used to ingest food. Activation of consummatory ingestive behaviour in this way had no effect on the subsequent display of sexual behaviour by male or female rats and vice versa. Rats infused intraorally with sucrose and presented with a sexual partner showed ingestive and sexual behaviour simultaneously. Pretreatment with cholecystokinin octapeptide inhibited the ingestion of sucrose in both males and females but had no effect on the simultaneous display of sexual behaviour. Ingestion of sucrose from a drinking spout, a test in which the rat has to emit responses to obtain food, i.e. show appetitive ingestive behaviour, was inhibited by the presentation of a sexual partner in rats of both sexes. These results show that the mechanisms controlling consummatory sexual and ingestive behaviour operate independently and that the presentation of a sexual partner inhibits appetitive ingestive behaviour. Daily intraoral infusion of sucrose reduced pellet intake in ovariectomized rats while the rats maintained their body weight. Implantation of an oestradiol-filled implant reduced body weight and inhibited daily intake of pellets but had no effect on the intake of intraorally administered sucrose. Subsequent removal of the oestradiol implant increased sucrose intake and body weight but did not have a marked effect on pellet intake. Thus, rats respond to a lowering of the set point for body weight by decreasing their intake of the least preferable kind of food and increase their intake of the most preferable kind of food in response to an elevation of the set point for body weight. Ovariectomized rats infused intraorally once daily with a highly nutritive milk diet in the absence of food pellets ingested very large amounts and reduced their intake in response to oestradiol implantation. Thus, although oestradiol can inhibit consummatory ingestive behaviour, its suppressive effect on ingestion cannot be described in terms of selective effects on appetitive and/or consummatory aspects of the behaviour nor in terms of an alteration in the preference for a sweet solution. Inhibition of ingestive behaviour occurred within 24 h after oestrogen treatment as opposed to stimulation of sexual behaviour which had a longer latency, suggesting that oestradiol affects ingestive and sexual behaviour via different mechanisms. While the mechanisms controlling consummatory ingestive and sexual behaviour must be different, there is evidence for a common mechanism mediating the incentive motivation and reward aspects of these behaviours. The mechanisms which enable rats to select between two, possibly equally rewarding courses of action, i.e. display of sexual or ingestive responses, however, are unknown.