Sexual performance and precontact 50-kHz ultrasonic vocalizations in WAG/Rij rats: effects of opioid receptor treatment

Epilepsy Behav. 2014 Oct:39:66-72. doi: 10.1016/j.yebeh.2014.08.003. Epub 2014 Sep 13.


WAG/Rij rats are genetically selected animals that model absence epilepsy in rats. Ultrasonic vocalizations and sexual behavior - both ethologically relevant markers of reward system functioning - are poorly described in this strain. The aim of our experiment was to investigate reward-dependent precontact 50-kHz vocalizations (PVs) and copulatory behavior as well as the effects of opioid receptor treatment on such behaviors in sexually experienced WAG/Rij males and rats from two control strains: Sprague-Dawley and Crl: Han Wistar. We analyzed the effects of the opioid receptor antagonist naltrexone (3 mg/kg) and the agonist morphine (1 mg/kg) administration. Additionally, we analyzed the initiation of copulation in sexually naïve males before drug treatment. A significantly lower number of sexually naïve WAG/Rij rats initiated copulation. Sexually experienced WAG/Rij males differed at the control session (after physiological saline treatment) compared with Sprague-Dawley rats: WAG/Rij rats displayed more 50-kHz precontact vocalizations and had longer mount and intromission latencies, longer ejaculation latency, longer postejaculatory latency to exploration, longer 22-kHz vocalization duration after ejaculation, and longer postejaculatory intromission latency. Compared with Crl: Han Wistar rats, WAG/Rij males displayed longer mount latency and shorter 22-kHz vocalization duration. Neither naltrexone nor morphine affected PVs in all groups. On the other hand, opioid receptor treatment differently influenced the number of intromissions required to achieve ejaculation and 22-kHz postejaculatory vocalization duration in WAG/Rij rats than in both control groups. This suggests functional differences in the opioid system in this strain. As a result of the number of males that initiated copulation as well as the number of intromissions to ejaculation and 22-kHz postejaculatory vocalizations which all depend on D1 receptor activation, we suggest that the proportion of opioid receptor to D1 receptors in WAG/Rij rats is different when compared with the control strains. The reward system of Wag/Rij rats with absence epilepsy is sensitive to social rewards (high level of precontact 50-kHz ultrasounds) although this strain displays a lower level of sexual motivation (longer mount latency) compared with other control strains. A lower number of sexually naïve rats initiating copulation and longer mount latency in sexually experienced males could suggest a moderate depressive-like syndrome in this strain of rats.

Keywords: Absent epilepsy; Opioid receptor; Rats; Reward; Sexual behavior; Ultrasonic vocalizations; Wag/Rij.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Epilepsy, Absence / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Naltrexone / pharmacology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Receptors, Opioid / drug effects*
  • Reward*
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / drug effects
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Vocalization, Animal / drug effects
  • Vocalization, Animal / physiology*


  • Receptors, Opioid
  • Naltrexone