Differences in sexual behaviour in male and female rodents: role of serotonin

Berend Olivier, Johnny S W Chan, Eelke M Snoeren, Jocelien D A Olivier, Jan G Veening, Christiaan H Vinkers, Marcel D Waldinger, Ronald S Oosting

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


Serotonin plays an important role in both male and female sexual behaviour. In general, reduction of 5-HT function facilitates, whereas enhancement inhibits sexual behaviour. Most fundamental research on the involvement of 5-HT in sex has been performed in rats. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) have comparable effects on male and female sexual behaviour in rats; they inhibit it but only after chronic administration. Activation of the 5-HT(1A) receptor facilitates sexual behaviour in male rats but inhibits sexual behaviour in female rats, suggesting a differential role for 5-HT(1A) receptors in male and female rats. Research on sexual behaviour in rats with null mutations in the serotonin transporter (SERT) indicated also a differential role for 5-HT(1A) receptors in male and female sexual behaviour. Evidence exists that different pools of 5-HT(1A) receptors have differential roles in various parts of the cascade of sexual events occurring during sexual interactions. Roles for other 5-HT receptors are less well defined although 5-HT(1B), 5-HT(2A/B) and 5-HT(7) receptors seem to be involved. Identification of putative differential or comparable roles in female and male sexual activities requires more research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-36
Number of pages22
JournalCurrent topics in behavioral neurosciences
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes

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