Sexual activity counteracts the suppressive effects of chronic stress on adult hippocampal neurogenesis and recognition memory

Brain Res. 2013 Nov 13:1538:26-40. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2013.09.007. Epub 2013 Sep 13.


Adult neurogenesis can be influenced by a variety of factors. Stress is one of the most potent inhibitors of hippocampal neurogenesis. Stress effects on adult hippocampal neurogenesis are affected differently by environmental factors, including social interaction. Sexual behavior between males and females in a social context has been suggested to influence neurogenesis and enhance hippocampal cell proliferation. However, the mechanisms of action of sexual interaction, the possible changes relative to stress state, and its effects on learning and memory remain uncertain. The current study examined the influence of sexual interaction on neurological responses in adult male mice and the function of sexual interaction relative to recognition memory in stress states. Changes in the expression of neurotrophic and transcription factors were assessed in reference to stress and/or sexual behaviors. The survival of newly generated cells and their rate of differentiation into neurons were determined in the hippocampus of chronically stressed and/or sexually experienced mice. Finally, to evaluate whether sexual experience alters adult hippocampal function, we tested learning and memory in a recognition memory task. The results demonstrated that sexual activity increased the expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, tyrosine kinase B, and cAMP response element-binding factor. Furthermore, the results supported the view that sexual interaction could be helpful for buffering adult hippocampal neurogenesis and recognition memory function against the suppressive actions of chronic stress.

Keywords: Adult neurogenesis; Brain-derived neurotrophic factor; Chronic stress; Neuronal survival & differentiation; Recognition memory; Sexual activity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / metabolism
  • CREB-Binding Protein / metabolism
  • Cell Survival
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / metabolism
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Neurogenesis*
  • Receptor, trkB / metabolism
  • Recognition, Psychology / physiology*
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Stress, Psychological / metabolism
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology*


  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • CREB-Binding Protein
  • Crebbp protein, mouse
  • Receptor, trkB