Abstract / Description of output
As feeding and mating are mutually-exclusive goal-orientated behaviours, we investigated whether brief food deprivation would impair the display of sexual behaviour of male rats. Analysis of performance in a sexual incentive motivation test revealed that, like fed males, food-deprived males preferred spending time in the vicinity of receptive females rather than non-receptive females. Despite this, food-deprived males were more likely to be slow to mate than normally-fed males, and a low dose of the satiety peptide α-melanocyte-stimulating-hormone attenuated the effect of hunger. Using Fos immunocytochemistry, we compared neuronal activity in the vomeronasal projection pathway in response to oestrous cues from receptive females between food-deprived and fed males. As in fed males, more Fos expression was seen in the rostral part of the bed nucleus of stria terminalis and in the medial preoptic area in food-deprived males, confirming that food-deprived males can recognise and respond to female oestrous cues. However, while there was also an increase in Fos expression in the bed nucleus of the accessory tract and in the posteromedial amygdala in fed males, no increases were seen in these areas in food-deprived rats. We also found selective attenuation in the activation of lateral posterior paraventricular nucleus (lpPVN) oxytocin neurones in food-deprived males. Together, the data show that, while food-deprived males can still become sexually motivated, copulation is delayed, and this is accompanied by variations in neuronal activity in the vomeronasal projection pathway. We propose that, in hungry rats, the lpPVN oxytocin neurones (which project to the spinal cord and are involved in maintaining penile erection) facilitate the transition from motivation to intromission, and their lack of activation impairs intromission, and thus delays mating.