A model has been developed for the study of penile erection in the Sprague-Dawley rat. Anatomical dissections demonstrate a bilateral ganglion lateral to the prostate called the major pelvic ganglion. This ganglion receives input from the pelvic and hypogastric nerves and innervates the pelvic viscera. A large fiber from the major pelvic ganglion courses along the urethra and innervates the corpus cavernosum, the cavernous nerve. In 40 animals, electrical stimulation of either the cavernous nerve or the pelvic nerve resulted in reproducible repetitive tumescence of the corpora cavernosum. Following ablation of the cavernous nerve, electrical stimulation failed to produce erections. Standard mating behavior tests of mounting, intromission and ejaculation in 38 rats showed that surgical ablation of the cavernous nerve resulted in a decrease in the rate of intromissions and ejaculations compared with sham operated controls. Present models for the study of erection have been limited to the dog, monkey and cat. The rat model presented here offers several advantages over these existing models: 1) the cavernous nerve is easily identified, 2) electrical stimulation is easily accomplished and reproducible, 3) behavioral and neurophysiological studies are possible, and 4) animal purchase, housing, and maintenance costs are low. These advantages make this model a uniquely useful tool in the further study of penile erection.
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