Olfactory and vomeronasal deafferentation of male hamsters: histological and behavioral analyses

Brain Res. 1977 May 6;126(2):325-44. doi: 10.1016/0006-8993(77)90729-6.


Deafferentation of the vomeronasal system by cutting the vomeronasal nerves severely impaired mating behavior in 44% of male hamsters over a 1--2 month period of postoperative testing, but the remaining males mated normally after the surgery. Damage to the main olfactory bulbs, concomitant to vomeronasal nerve cuts, did not account for this behavioral difference. Subsequent deafferentation of olfactory system by intranasal infusion of zinc sulfate solution (5 g ZnSO4--7H2O in 95 ml 0.5% NaCl) had no effect on intromission or ejaculation latencies of sham vomeronasal cut males but eliminated mating behavior 2 days after treatment in males with bilateral vomeronasal nerve cuts. Some of these males recovered the behavior in 1--3 weeks of post zinc sulfate testing. Histological analyses of the olfactory mucosa in 7 males on day 2 after zinc sulfate showed that 89--97% of the mucosa had been destroyed in 6 out of 7 of the males and 78% in the seventh. We conclude that destruction of the vomeronasal system irreparably reduces arousal necessary for mating in some hamsters but in other males sufficient arousal for this behavior to occur is mediated through the olfactory system, presumably in conjunction with other sensory inputs. Subsequent removal of the olfactory input in these animals eliminates the behavior.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Central Nervous System / physiology*
  • Cricetinae
  • Denervation
  • Male
  • Olfactory Bulb / cytology
  • Olfactory Bulb / physiology*
  • Olfactory Mucosa / drug effects
  • Olfactory Pathways / cytology
  • Olfactory Pathways / physiology*
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Zinc / pharmacology


  • Zinc