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Front. Behav. Neurosci. | doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2019.00227

Glutamate afferents from the medial prefrontal cortex mediate nucleus accumbens activation by female sexual behavior

Kelsey M. Moore1, Wyatt L. Oelberg2, M R. Glass3,  Matthew D. Johnson2,  Laura E. Been3 and  Robert L. Meisel1*
  • 1Department of Neuroscience, University of Minnesota Twin Cities, United States
  • 2Department of Biomedical Engineering, College of Science and Engineering, University of Minnesota, United States
  • 3Department of Psychology, Haverford College, United States

Low levels of desire and arousal are the primary sexual dysfunctions in women, necessitating neurobiological studies of sexual motivation in female animal models. As the mesocorticolimbic system is a primary neural circuit underlying sexual motivation, the goal of this study was to test the hypothesis that medial prefrontal cortex glutamate mediates sexual behavior activation of the nucleus accumbens. Glutamatergic neurons in the medial prefrontal cortex were activated by sex behavior, and these sex-activated cells shown to project to the nucleus accumbens. During sexual interactions with the male, glutamate transients recorded in the nucleus accumbens of female hamsters were specifically associated with the receipt of intromissions from the male. Further, inhibition of the medial prefrontal cortex during sex significantly decreased nucleus accumbens activation. Glutamatergic medial prefrontal cortical input to the nucleus accumbens mediates the activity in the nucleus accumbens during female sexual behavior. These results offer novel insights into the neurobiology of the motivational control of female sexual behavior and provide attractive avenues for pursuing target-specific and clinically-relevant therapies for sexual dysfunction in women.

Keywords: Sexual Behavior, Reward, Glutamate, Medial prefrontal cortex, Nucleus Accumbens, DREADD

Received: 26 Jun 2019; Accepted: 12 Sep 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Moore, Oelberg, Glass, Johnson, Been and Meisel. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Robert L. Meisel, Department of Neuroscience, University of Minnesota Twin Cities, Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States, meisel@umn.edu