Interactions between dopamine and oxytocin in the control of sexual behavior

Tracey A. Baskerville, Alison J. Douglas

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Dopamine and oxytocin are two key neuromodulators involved in reproductive behaviours, such as mating and maternal care. Much evidence underlies their separate roles in such behaviours, but particularly in sexual behaviour. It is generally believed that central dopaminergic and oxytocinergic systems work together to regulate the expression of penile erection, but relatively little is known regarding how they interact. Thus, this review aims to discuss neuroanatomical proof, neuromodulator secretory profiles in the hypothalamus and behavioural pharmacological evidence which support a dopamine–oxytocin link in three hypothalamic nuclei that have been implicated in sexual behaviour, namely the medial preoptic nucleus, supraoptic nucleus and paraventricular nucleus (PVN). We also aim to provide an overview of potential dopamine-mediated transduction pathways that occur within these nuclei and are correlated with the exhibition of penile erection. The PVN provides the most convincing evidence for a dopamine–oxytocin link and it is becoming increasingly apparent that parvocellular oxytocinergic neurons in the PVN, in part, mediate the effects of dopamine to elicit penile erection. However, while we show that oxytocin neurons express dopamine receptors, other evidence on whether dopaminergic activation of PVN oxytocin cells involves a direct and/or indirect mechanism is inconclusive and further evidence is required to establish whether the two systems interact synergistically or sequentially in the regulation of penile erection.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAdvances in Vasopressin and Oxytocin — From Genes to Behaviour to Disease
EditorsD. Inga Neumann, Rainer Landgraf
Number of pages14
ISBN (Print)978-0-444-53201-5
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Event7th World Congress on Neurohypophysial Hormones - Regensburg
Duration: 18 Sep 200722 Sep 2007

Publication series

NameProgress in Brain Research


Conference7th World Congress on Neurohypophysial Hormones


  • D2-like dopamine receptors
  • medial preoptic nucleus
  • oxytocin
  • paraventricular nucleus
  • sexual behaviour
  • supraoptic nucleus


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