No basal or drug-induced sex differences in striatal dopaminergic levels: a cluster and meta-analysis of rat microdialysis studies

J Neurochem. 2020 Feb;152(4):482-492. doi: 10.1111/jnc.14911. Epub 2019 Dec 11.


Sex differences in behavioural patterns of drug abuse and dependence have been hypothesized to be a consequence of sexual dimorphisms in brain pathways, particularly within the dopaminergic reward circuitry. Yet, how potential sex differences are manifested at a neurochemical level remains unclear. Here, we use a meta-analysis approach to investigate whether animal studies robustly indicate a different regulation of striatal dopamine transmission in males and females. Data from 39 microdialysis experiments on female rats (n = 676) were extracted and statistically compared with data from 1523 male rats. All drugs of abuse, independent of their molecular mechanisms of action, notably increase extracellular dopamine concentrations in the nucleus accumbens (NAc) and caudate putamen (CPu). No significant sex differences in basal levels or in dopaminergic response to drugs of abuse were found. However, basal dopamine levels in CPu (but not NAc) were significantly altered by ovariectomy. In conclusion, there are no sex-dependent differences in basal dopamine levels within the NAc and CPu. Previously reported sex differences in the CPu seem to be a result of ovariectomy and may only to a lesser, non-significant degree be attributed to a sexual duality.

Keywords: dopamine; drugs of abuse; microdialysis; rat; scoping review.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Corpus Striatum / chemistry*
  • Corpus Striatum / drug effects
  • Corpus Striatum / metabolism*
  • Dopamine / analysis
  • Dopamine / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Microdialysis
  • Rats
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / metabolism


  • Dopamine