Prior exposure to oxytocin mimics the effects of social contact and facilitates sexual behaviour in females
Cushing BS, Carter CS.
Department of Biology,
University of Maryland, College Park,
MD 20742, USA.
J Neuroendocrinol 1999 Oct;11(10):765-9
The purpose of this study was to determine whether pretreatment with oxytocin could mimic the effects of social contact and enhance sexual receptivity in female prairie voles. Female prairie voles require prolonged exposure to males to become sexually active and oxytocin has been shown to play a major role in the establishment of social bonds between males and females. Therefore, we hypothesized that prior exposure to exogenous oxytocin, in the absence of males, would enhance sexual activity in females. Two experiments were conducted to test this hypothesis. Experiment 1 examined the capacity of oxytocin to enhance sexual behaviour in females undergoing natural oestrus. Sexually naive female prairie voles received a daily subcutaneous injection of 20 microg oxytocin or isotonic saline for 5 days before being placed with a sexually experienced male for 48 h. Females treated with oxytocin were significantly more likely to mate during this period than saline-treated females. In experiment 2 the ability of oxytocin to increase subsequent sensitivity of sexually naive females to oestradiol was tested. Females that received oxytocin pretreatment, as in experiment 1, followed by oestradiol displayed a significant increase in sexual receptivity when compared to females treated with saline and oestradiol or oestradiol only. The results supported the hypothesis that prior exposure to oxytocin can mimic the effects of social contact, and can facilitate sexual receptivity by increasing the sensitivity of females to very low doses of oestradiol.