Topography in the preoptic region: Differential regulation of appetitive and consummatory male sexual behaviors

Jacques Balthazart, Gregory F. Ball

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Several studies have suggested dissociations between neural circuits underlying the expression of appetitive (e.g., courtship behavior) and consummatory components (i.e., copulatory behavior) of vertebrate male sexual behavior. The medial preoptic area (mPOA) clearly controls the expression of male copulation but, according to a number of experiments, is not necessarily implicated in the expression of appetitive sexual behavior. In rats for example, lesions to the mPOA eliminate male-typical copulatory behavior but have more subtle or no obvious effects on measures of sexual motivation. Rats with such lesions still pursue and attempt to mount females. They also acquire and perform learned instrumental responses to gain access to females. However, recent lesions studies and measures of the expression of the immediate early gene c-fos demonstrate that, in quail, sub-regions of the mPOA, in particular of its sexually dimorphic component the medial preoptic nucleus, can be specifically linked with either the expression of appetitive or consummatory sexual behavior. In particular more rostral regions can be linked to appetitive components while more caudal regions are involved in consummatory behavior. This functional sub-region variation is associated with neurochemical and hodological specializations (i.e., differences in chemical phenotype of the cells or in their connectivity), especially those related to the actions of androgens in relation to the activation of male sexual behavior, that are also present in rodents and other species. It could thus reflect general principles about POA organization and function in the vertebrate brain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)161-178
Number of pages18
JournalFrontiers in Neuroendocrinology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Appetitive sexual behavior
  • FOS
  • Medial preoptic nucleus
  • Mesencephalic central gray
  • Sexual behavior
  • Sexual motivation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems


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