Dopamine and sexual behavior

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 1995 Spring;19(1):19-38. doi: 10.1016/0149-7634(94)00020-2.


Among central neurotransmitters involved in the control of sexual behavior, dopamine is certainly one of the most extensively studied. Our attempt to review old and recent neuropharmacological, biochemical, electrophysiological, and psychobiological studies performed so far only in rats, monkeys, and humans, provides evidence that dopamine through its different neuronal systems and receptor subtypes plays different roles in the control of several aspects of sexual behavior. In fact, while the nigrostriatal system is necessary for the control of the sensory-motor coordination required for copulation, the mesolimbic-mesocortical system plays a key role in the preparatory phase of the behavior, mainly in sexual arousal, motivation and possibly reward. Conversely, the incertohypothalamic system plays a major role in the consummation of the behavior, mainly in seminal emission and erectile performance, but evidence for its involvement in sexual motivation also exists. The dopaminergic receptors playing the major role in the control of male sexual behavior belong to the D2 receptor subtype. However a D1/D2 receptor interaction is well established and an opposite role for D1 and D2 receptors in the preoptic area suggested. Despite some differences, most studies show that treatments that increase or decrease, respectively, brain dopaminergic activity improve or worsen, respectively, several parameters of copulatory activity, supporting a facilitatory role of dopamine in male sexual behavior. In contrast, no conclusion can be deduced from the available studies on the role of central dopaminergic systems in the control of proceptivity and receptivity, the two main components of female sexual behavior.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dopamine / physiology*
  • Dopamine Agonists / pharmacology
  • Dopamine Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Sexual Behavior / drug effects
  • Sexual Behavior / physiology*
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / drug effects
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / physiology*


  • Dopamine Agonists
  • Dopamine Antagonists
  • Dopamine