Is sexual motivational state linked to dopamine release in the medial preoptic area?

H. K. Kleitz-Nelson, J. M. Dominguez, C. A. Cornil, G. F. Ball

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


The medial preoptic area (mPOA) is a key site for the dopaminergic enhancement of male sexual behavior. Dopamine release increases in the rat mPOA with mating, supporting the critical stimulatory role played by preoptic dopamine on male sexual behavior. However, it has been questioned whether dopamine is specifically related to the occurrence of male sexual behavior and not simply involved in general arousal. To address this question, we asked whether dopamine release in the mPOA is linked to the production of male sexual behavior in Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica), a species that exhibits a much shorter temporal pattern of copulation than rats and does not have an intromittent organ, resulting in a very different topography of their sexual response. Extracellular samples from the mPOA of adult sexually experienced male quail were collected every 6 min before, during, and after exposure to a female using in vivo microdialysis and analyzed using high-performance liquid chromatography with electrochemical detection. Extracellular dopamine significantly increased in the presence of a female and returned to baseline after removal of the female. However, quail that failed to copulate did not display this increased release. These findings indicate that it is not solely the presence of a female that drives dopamine release in males, but how a male responds to her. Furthermore, in quail that copulated, dopamine release did not change in samples collected during periods of no copulation. Together, these findings support the hypothesis that dopamine action in the mPOA is specifically linked to sexual motivation and not only to copulatory behavior or physical arousal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)300-304
Number of pages5
JournalBehavioral Neuroscience
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Birds
  • Male sexual behavior
  • Microdialysis
  • Neuroendocrinology
  • Neuroethology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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